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End of the Road Recipes: Buying potica a year-round option

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article

by Crystal Schlueter

Recently, a family friend shared with me about what he and his wife used to do when they bought potica. He said they kept it in a hiding place so their kids and guests wouldn’t know about it. He asked if it was terrible that they kept it all to themselves. I said if it were anything else, the answer would be yes. With potica, I understand completely.

Jerelyn Montgomerey of Babbitt sells excellent potica. I tried several of her varieties, with apple custard being my favorite. I had not yet sampled her pasty potica, but it was on my bucket list. Last Saturday afternoon, I saw a Facebook post that she was handing out free pasty potica samples at the St. Pius Catholic Church in Babbitt until 2 p.m.

Immediately, I threw on my boots and drove over. I caught her just as she was packing up her vehicle to leave and asked if she had any samples left. We were shivering and being peppered with nickel-sized snowflakes, but she just smiled and reached into her backseat to pull out her plate of samples. That’s small town kindness for you.

As for the potica, the thinly pulled dough was loaded with expertly seasoned filling. The ingredients were diced neatly but large enough that everything was identifiable. I think it may be my new favorite. I imagine it would be even better when served warm with a bowl of soup or buttered and toasted in a skillet, then topped with an over-easy egg.

I asked Jerelyn what potica meant to her. Her response blew me away. Jerelyn said her mom used to make potica, but she was too busy socializing to pay attention to what her mother was doing in the kitchen. Her mother passed on years ago, and she misses her terribly. She wishes she had more precious moments for learning from her mother.

Over the past several years, Jerelyn has made it her mission to replicate her mother’s delicious recipes. Like most potica makers, she added a few twists and adjustments to make the recipes work for her.

She does most of her baking late at night and into the early hours of the morning. Life gets in the way during the day, but nighttime is a peaceful and quiet time for reflection. Jerelyn spoke of how potica brings her a sense of inner peace. It gives her a feeling of closeness to her mother.

When she is pulling a paper-thin piece of dough, she asks herself “How is this not breaking?” She said it truly is some sort of miracle.

Jerelyn knows a thing or two about miracles. She has survived a host of life-threatening ailments since childhood, including kidney failure. She is also a kidney transplant survivor and recently dealt with a bad infection due to immunosuppression from anti-rejection drugs.

Between appointments, she picked apples at a nearby orchard to use in her potica, jams, and jellies, which she also sells. Soon after, she had to spend a few days in the hospital due to heart issues. After she got home, she went right back to work in the kitchen.

She makes sure to set aside time for passing traditions on to her grandchildren, and her oldest granddaughter, Amelia, is already a skilled potica maker. Jerelyn uses top-notch ingredients, from carefully selected produce to pure honey. The cost of ingredients and the time it takes to make goods of that quality are astounding.

Being a baker myself, I know just what goes into it and how difficult it is to make little if any profit. I asked her how she can manage and she admits it is a challenge.

I highly recommend buying some potica, jams, or jellies from Jerelyn and if you can, send a little extra love her way. With the love she puts into her craft, she truly deserves it. Just make sure you find a good hiding place once you bring her potica home. You can place an order with Jerelyn by email at jerelynmont333@gmail.com or by phone at 218-290-2677.

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