Nancy Jorgensen, Waukesha

Raised on Raw

By Nancy Jorgensen and Maureen McCollum | June 17, 2020


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Apple Pie

Food can conjure up vivid memories of childhood. The tastes and smells can send us to another place, while creating new memories in the moment. Writer Nancy Jorgensen has been thinking a lot about her German heritage and being “raised on raw” foods. She shares her recipe for apple pie.
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Dessert



  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Ice water


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups mixed variety apples
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces.
  • Sugar


  • Measure flour and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening. Make a well in center of mixture and add egg and vinegar. Mix until flour is moistened and dough cleans side of bowl, adding water as needed.
  • Divide dough in half. Roll out one half to fit 10-inch pie pan. Set in pie pan. Roll out second half for top of pie.
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir together apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Sauté in a pan for 5 minutes.
  • Toss warm apples with flour. Fill bottom crust with apple mixture. Dot with butter pieces. Cover with top crust, seal and flute. Cut slits into top crust.
  • Cover edge with 3-inch strip of aluminum foil. Remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.
  • Bake 40-50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits.

Food can conjure up vivid memories of childhood. The tastes and smells can send us to another place, while creating new memories in the moment. Writer Nancy Jorgensen has been thinking a lot about her German heritage and being “raised on raw” foods.


My cousins and I spit the last of our slippery black watermelon seeds into Nana’s lawn and tumbled into the house. I was ten years old. Or maybe six or twelve. In the kitchen, Nana leaned against the counter, cotton apron stretched across her middle. She stroked my cheek with one hand and held a plate in the other: slaughtered beef, freshly ground and bloody-red.

Our parents circled a square oak table, apparently immune to the fumes of pickles boiling in vinegar. My uncles clutched Gettlemen or Old Milwaukee and blew cigarette smoke into the vinegar clouds. The smoke and steam made my breath catch.

Pans of dinner rolls rest on top of stove.
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)
Bread and pies cooling on rack.
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)

Mother got up from the table and in a few seconds, a serrated knife rested in her hand. In front of her, a loaf of rye. On the counter, a clear-glass shaker filled with salt. “Would you like some raw beef and onions?” I put out my hand for the bread and held it as she spread crimson swirls and laid slivers of white on top.

I was raised on this traditional German food, along with kraut from Nana’s stoneware crock. And sausage from her hand-cranked meat grinder, oozed into animal-intestine casings. We rarely ate in restaurants, our parents and grandparents creating meals from hand-tilled gardens, ancient grapevines or a neighbor’s Holstein.

Jorgensen family at restaurant.
Gwen, Elizabeth, Joel, and Nancy Jorgensen eating out at a restaurant. (Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)

Now, my family often eats in restaurants. Last month, my husband, Joel, and I traveled to Portland to spend a week with our adult daughter, Gwen. One night in a local pub, she considered appetizers. On the menu, steak tartare. With a new name and extra ingredients—uncooked egg and capers—it was still Nana’s staple, raw beef and onions.

We cook at home too, and last week, our older daughter Elizabeth prepared dinner for us. While we sipped Shiraz, she presented a tenderloin, crisp on the edges but red and bleeding from the middle, just a few degrees past rare. Each bite, dipped in horseradish, stung my nose with a prickly ache. It took me back to Nana’s garden where that gnarly root grew among her beets and kohlrabi and turnips. I savored the burn with the comfort of familiarity.

Plate of roasted purple, orange, and yellow carrots.
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)
Salads and appetizers.
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)

As Nana peeled carrots or cooked a warm potato salad dressing, she told me I was German and Pennsylvania Dutch. Her pride, like her red-checked tablecloth, was present at every meal. It was clear my daughters inherited her German pedigree and taste for hearty dishes.

A while back, Gwen, Elizabeth, Joel and I spent five minutes spitting into tubes. When the results came back, Nana’s genetics weren’t as strong as I believed. My German DNA is less than 33%. I am also 11% Scandinavian and 13% British. And Nana never mentioned over pork chops that I am 8% Ashkenazi Jewish. I wonder what those ancestors would say about our habits with uncooked meat and milk from the neighbor’s cow.

People gathered at Christmas dinner table.
The Jorgensen family and friends gather for Christmas dinner in 2019. (Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)

Before the holidays this year, we planned our Christmas menu. Whether by nature or nurture, Gwen chose pickled herring, popular with Germans who fished the North Sea. Elizabeth requested pretzels, a German baking tradition. And I made German apple pie. But then, I whipped a pint of cream—a British birthright. And dropped meatballs in gravy—definitely Danish. We included a Mediterranean salad, Asian eggrolls and Southern pecan pie. Surveying the dishes, I realized our German heritage a muted presence.

But our Wisconsin ties shouted. Pieper Porch wine in stemware, Raised Grain beer in mugs, Wisconsin-produced milk in children’s cups. Nestled in serving bowls, from our own Wisconsin garden, were July’s pickled cucumbers, August’s heirloom tomatoes, and October’s Duchess apples. A bounty of food and tradition—as wide as the world and as narrow as Wisconsin.

Tomato Galette
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)
cream puffs
(Courtesy of Nancy Jorgensen)

This story is part of Food Traditions, a multimedia project exploring food and culture across Wisconsin.

Nancy Jorgensen

Nancy Jorgensen

Waukesha writer Nancy Jorgensen partnered with daughter Elizabeth Jorgensen to write a 2022 middle-grade biography, Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete (Meyer & Meyer Sport). She has also written two choral education books published by Hal Leonard Corporation and Lorenz Corporation. Her essays appear in Ruminate, River Teeth, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere.
Maureen McCollum

Maureen McCollum

Maureen McCollum is the host and producer for “Wisconsin Life” on Wisconsin Public Radio and the “WPR Reports: Uprooted” podcast. Her work has appeared on NPR and has been honored with national and regional awards. She loves live music, the bluffs along the Mississippi River and eating too much cheese.

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