Ledyard strawberry supper a community affair

Ledyard — If you're a member of the Ledyard Congregational Church, chances are you're helping in next week's strawberry supper.

Two posters in the church hall where the dinner will be held June 18 are filled with names of parishioners who signed up to bring an ingredient or assist in the four-day preparation process, which starts with berry picking on Sunday and ends with cleanup on Wednesday. According to event chair Deb Betz, the dinner feeds on average 250-300 people and has been going strong for at least 80 years, thanks to a multigenerational effort by the congregation.

Longtime volunteer Janet Barnett said she has helped out at the event as long as she can remember. She started as a little girl picking strawberries from her family farm — her grandfather's berries had made the Holdridge name famous statewide — and hulling them with her mother and grandmother, both tasks she still enjoys.

She said the supper, a ham and bean dinner with strawberry shortcake for dessert, came from a time when church members brought their goods and talents to the proverbial table rather than their money; her family's farm supplied the strawberries, another local farm supplied the beans, and so on.

Betz said the event has grown organically, and all the ingredients for the meal are supplied entirely by volunteer donations. By the end of the meal, they typically go through about 250 pounds of strawberries, 90 pounds of ham and 70 pounds of beans, not to mention the potatoes, cabbage and condiments needed to prepare the side dishes for a few hundred hungry attendees.

After the strawberries are picked Sunday morning at Grant's Berry Farm in Lisbon — Betz said you could always tell who is on the picking crew because they'd come to the morning service with muddy jeans and berry-stained hands — volunteers spend the rest of the day preparing potatoes for the potato salad and soaking the beans for the baked beans. Monday afternoon is dedicated to making biscuits and setting up the hall, and Tuesday is a mad dash to make the cole slaw, hull and smash the strawberries for the shortcake — and finish setting-up before guests come.

"It's way fun," Betz said. "Everyone really enjoys it. A lot of people will just sit there all night and socialize."

Barnett said that despite all the moving parts, somehow it all comes together every year. The supper starts at 5 p.m., but there's often a line by 4:30 p.m., sometimes with patrons from out of town.

"It kind of made us famous because there are people who have come down from Massachusetts and say, 'Oh, Ledyard, that's where I had that shortcake,'" Barnett said. "People start asking me in March when the strawberry supper is going to be."



Anna's Baked Beans

courtesy of Ledyard Congregational Church

1 pound yellow eye beans, washed and sorted

6 ounces salt pork

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup white sugar

Soak the beans overnight. In the morning, boil the beans gently with the baking soda, about 1 1/2 hours, until just soft and beginning to split. Score the pork and put in a baking pan with the beans and water, stirring in the rest of the ingredients. Add more water to cover the beans by about 1/2 inch. Bake covered for at least 6 hours at 325 degrees.

If You Go

What: Strawberry Supper

Where: Ledyard Congregational Church, 722 Colonel Ledyard Highway

When: Tuesday, June 18 from 5-7 p.m.

Menu: ham and baked bean dinner with potato salad, cole slaw, drinks and strawberry shortcake for dessert

Price: $13 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children aged 4-10, free for children under age 4. Strawberry shortcake alone is $6. Take-out available.

Contact: (860) 464-9926


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