Located in the southwestern hills of Wisconsin, The Summer Kitchen forms the original 1849 homestead in the once-thriving lead mining community known as Centerville, WI.
When Summer Kitchen founder Jim Schroeder bought the property almost 40 years ago, the home was in horrible condition, with cows standing in the livingroom. It’s now a showplace.
Jim originally canned the wild-growing plums and apples he found on the property, taking them to the Dane County Farmers’ Market in baby food jars sealed with paraffin wax. The kitchen now features a vibrant orchard of apple, plum, cherry, and peach trees, along with grapes, rhrubarb, currants, and several varieties of berries. The baby food jars have been abandoned in favor of modern canning jars.
With the passing of Jim Schroeder in May of 2011, business partner Dan Aultman has assumed full ownership of The Summer Kitchen.
“My family moved into the area in 1974,” explains Dan, “and Jim introduced himself and started babysitting me. I was four years old. When he was out planting I was there with him. I still remember the asparagus in the wheelbarrow. I probably didn’t do much. Jim says pretty much all I did was drink Tang, which was popular at the time.” Much has changed since Dan’s Tang drinking days.
Dan spends many hours tending the orchard, garden, and wild woods surrounding The Summer Kitchen. “I love to plant a tree,” he says, “then imagine the fruit I will harvest, the jar it will go in,
and the joy of the customer enjoying the contents
of that jar. Their pleasure is worth my hard work.”