Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tillie's Limpa (Swedish Rye Bread)

Dedicated to "Uncle" Homer Johnson
Illustrious Camp Squanto Director

1 1/2 C lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C dark molasses
1 T melted shortening (butter)
1 T salt
2 T finely grated orange rind
2 yeast cakes (dissolve in lukewarm water)
2 1/2 C rye flour
2 1/2 - 3 C (unbleached) white flour
fennel or anise seed (2-3 T)

Combine water, sugar, molasses, shortening, orange rind, and yeast. Allow yeast to bubble, In a separate blow mix rye and white flour thoroughly, blending in salt and seeds. Add dry ingredients (stir in gradually) to moist ingredients. Knead, let rise in a bowl covered with a clean moist (linen) towel. Punch down. Form into (3-4) round loaves. Place on a flat baking sheets and let rise. Bake at 375 degrees F for 33 to 35 minutes.

NOTE: If yeast is not potent enough (you can tell by the bubbles as it reacts with the sugars - lots bubbles are good) or if you would like a lighter bread, use approximately 2 parts white flour to one part rye.

©Wilma Carolyn Johnson Short

Tillie was the cook at Camp Squanto during its early days. She was famous among campers for her sizzling hot corn fritters drenched in maple syrup, pancakes made with sweet blueberries from Mount Monadnock, gathered by Squanto hikers, but Tillie is probably best remembered for her Swedish Limpa bread which she baked several times a week. My memory of fresh, moist, flavorful bread with her delicious meals is among the best from my summer weeks at Camp Squanto.

My cousin Claire was Tillie's assistant one summer. Tillie eventually entrusted Claire to prepare the loaves of Limpa for baking in the giant mixer, "Big Bertha". According to my cousin, she was sworn to keep Tillie's coveted Limpa recipe a top secret.

Several years after Tillie's passing, Claire entrusted the recipe to me. I have some vague recollection of having to keep it under lock and key. But that was then. Claire has since passed on too. I am certain they would both be delighted to share the sweet warm fragrance of homemade Limpa filling your kitchen, just as it wafted from Camp Squanto's kitchen enticing campers to the dining hall. Certainly Tillie and Claire would both smile as you take that first bite of moist brown bread smeared with creamy butter, but please! promise to continue the tradition of keeping it a secret.

Recipe donated and edited (with parentheses) by WC Johnson, enthusiastic indulger of Tillie's Limpa at Camp Squanto from 1958-1965.


  1. Now this is going to force me to try baking bread. I will let you know if it is like Tillie's or if I am better off driving to Clark Street instead. I anxiously await your next contribution to my recipe catalog. BTW you'd probably like to take a look at my "box" of recipes contributed to me at my bridal shower from all the family members and also all my Mom's old hand written recipes...maybe on your next trip to Chicago.

  2. I remember that recipe box. I think that was Claire's idea. I don't know if I actually contributed to it, but hopefully this eventual collection in my blog will make up for my lack or organization in 1977. Are you able to download and print the recipes from this blog? I haven't tried it, but I would think one could do that.

    I'd love to come to Chicago again. This time we will plan our get together and perhaps I will make copies of recipes from your "box". I have two card-filled boxes of my own, which include my own "inventions, recipes I've collected, and, of course, the hand-written ones handed down to me.

    I am having so much fun with this blog. I am attempting to make it top-notch - meaning tried and true, excellent recipes that really have never been published. I've looked at other blogs and they copy and paste from other blogs. Hmmm ... maybe I should copyright mine. I know nothing about the legalities of this.

    Once again, you are majorly responsible for my starting this blog. I posted some things on Facebook that I had had for a meal. People started asking me for the recipes. I wondered how in the world I was going to post them on Facebook. I kept thinking ... blog ... what about a blog? After I saw the movie "Julia and Julie" I began my blog - like the very next day! I'm not trying to set any record of entering a recipe every day, but once a week might be an attainable goal. After a year there should bee 50 or so recipes posted. I have not yet figured out how to post photos, which would add some added appeal to the blog, don't you think?

    Once again, Deb,thanks for getting me into this. It all stems from you asking me to join Facebook. Thanks a lot, cousin. I really appreciate it!

    Thanks so much for your supporting me in this endeavor. It means a lot to know you are waiting for another post. It's motivating for me.

  3. This really brings a memory or two. I loved the limpa bread at Squanto. I remember my mom buying it at the Saturday bake sales in the mess hall. Tillie had a wonderful bake sale on the days campers were dropped off and picked up. It was nice to go home with a sample of Tillie's baking. I remember those fritters too. She was amazing. When I try this, I'll let you know how it is. Thanks for posting it. I'm sure Tillie is smiling.

  4. So we, the collective JAJA cousins, have (had, in sweet Claire's case) two cousins who can't keep a secret! Love it! Tillie's sticky buns are on my radar. Her limpa was sooo good. Thanks. Only I can't bake.