It’s going on two years since Soderquist’s Market closed after 87 years in business in Ham Lake, but the family-owned grocery has left a lasting legacy: its Swedish potato sausage.
When Soderquist’s shut down in October 2013, customers clamored for the product, said the fourth-generation owners, Cheryl Sauter and her brother, Mark Soderquist.
In the last few weeks the store was open, it sold 1,200 pounds of sausage, the equivalent of a normal year’s worth of sales, Sauter said.
“People were stocking up,” she said. “They asked us, ‘Where will we be able to get this?’ ”
Several hundred people signed up to get on a mailing list.
All that prompted the siblings to keep the product going, still using the recipe that their great-aunt Minnie Soderquist used. They lined up a plant in Annandale to make the sausage, along with a distributor. Last year, around the holidays, it was available in more than 20 stores, and some places carry it year-round. Minnie’s photo is on the label.
“We felt a lot of sad feelings when we couldn’t keep the store open,” Sauter said. “Now we feel like at least we got this done and we’re carrying on with that.”
“To see this out there, it’s like our offspring has survived.”
What makes the sausage special? For starters, Sauter said, it’s made with fresh potatoes and, she added, it’s a nice complement to the beef and pork, which is seasoned with a “secret blend of spices.”
Sauter describes the end product as “Swedish sausage with a kick.” So often, Scandinavian food is considered bland, but “not our product. We’re real proud of that,” she said.
The product also has a history. Made by Minnie Soderquist, it was sold in the original general store right from the start, in 1926, when Iver Soderquist opened it at Central Avenue and County Road 18.
He and three brothers also built a gas station and hardware store. Their idea was to provide a stopping point about halfway between Minneapolis and Cambridge.
Janet Nelson, 77, used to help Minnie, her grandmother, prepare the potato sausage. Around the holidays, it was a staple part of a traditional Scandinavian dinner. Every family would do it differently, baking or cooking it with their own mix of spices, said Nelson.
Minnie’s recipe was especially well-liked and became a popular item at the store.
Nelson said her grandmother was an extremely hard worker. One Christmas Eve, the store ran out of sausage, and Minnie, who was making dinner for the whole family, dropped everything to replenish the supply. “We all ate later that night,” Nelson said.
Minnie worked for as long as she could, probably through the late 1940s or early 1950s, when the local butcher took over the task. Even then, she kept an eye on things: “If it was sometimes too spicy, she’d let them know they put too much of this or that in,” Nelson said.
Other family members were always involved with the sausage and the store. “A lot of memories go with it. My mom, Margaret [Soderquist] Livgard, doing demos, was known to toss a ring of sausage in people’s carts, saying, ‘here, it’s my mom’s recipe. You’ll like it,’ ” Nelson said.
For herself, and her cousins, she’s “delighted to know it goes on. It’s part of a long heritage,” she said. If Minnie Soderquist were alive today, “She would be overwhelmed to see her photo on the label. The first thing she’d say is that her hair doesn’t look right.”
For more information about Soderquist’s Swedish Potato Sausage, go to swedish-sausage.com.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.