It all started with a simple question: What dish do you most look forward to over the holidays? We asked our Facebook friends and boy did you answer! From cornbread dressing and pigs in a blanket, to molasses cookies and fudge, everyone has their own personal connections to the tastes of the season!
Home cook Mary Lou Gilliam’s response really got us thinking about the power of family food traditions and how meaningful they can be.
“Years ago distant relatives owned a bakery and made an awesome butter cookie with a dark chocolate icing star on top. The star was topped with chopped nuts, candied cherry halves or sprinkles. They were awesome. The icing recipe could never be matched. I miss those great treats, but the memories are awesome!”
It’s so true! No matter the years that have passed, there are certain recipes that each of us can remember as though we’d tasted it just moments ago. For Albuquerque’s Jo Zimny it is her dad’s tourtiere, a hearty meat pie.
“My father baked this simple and delicious pie every Christmas Eve,” recalls Jo. “We used to serve gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberries on the side. This one is a winner... Thanks, Dad!”
Simple ingredients are at the heart of the lovely dish. Ground pork and ground beef combine with onion, garlic, cream and simple seasoning into a soul-warming hug of a pie.
It was Caroline Reznicek’s grandmother, Nicky, who provided her favorite holiday food memory.
“As a child, we always made a four hour drive to spend the Christmas week
at Grandmother Nicky’s house,” smiles Caroline. “She always had wonderful
things baked for us kids, and the thing I looked forward to sinking my teeth into the most were her Sand Tart Cookies. They were so thin and delicious that I know I could have eaten the whole huge cookie tin all by myself.”
Light yet flavorful, these addictive cookies boast just the slightest hint of lemony freshness. Top with blanched almonds for an added *crunch* of nutty flavor, and the result is memorable indeed.
“After Nicky passed away in 1976, I looked through some of the cookbooks that my mother had been given, but [found] no Sand Tart recipe. Years later I was reminiscing with a cousin and she happened to have that particular recipe!”
Like Caroline, cookie baker Elsa Dreyer has generously shared her family’s favorite holiday recipes with us on www.justapinch.com. Known as Hertzog Cookies, her festive confection was borne of her rich South African heritage.
“These jam and coconut tartlets are known as Hertzog Koekies in South Africa, and are part of our traditional recipes,” explains Elsa. “They were named after General J.B.M. Hertzog, prime minister of the South Africa Union in 1924. According to legend, this was one of his wife’s recipes, and he loved it so much that she named the cookie after him. I grew up with Hertzog koekies. As is so often the case with traditional food recipes, there are many versions and here is the recipe that was used in my family for many, many years.”
The recipe starts by creating a simple, cake-like cookie dough. Once cut into rounds, the dough is put into individual patty pans and a rich apricot jam is spooned on top. Finally, the jam layer is covered by a coconutinfused meringue! After 20 minutes in the oven, you will have a delicate Christmas cookie as rich in tradition as it is in flavor! (And a real cookie tray stand-out, if you ask us...)
My own childhood memories are filled with homemade cream cheese mints, lopsided gingerbread houses and the smell of slow baking ham. I treasure those memories and am grateful to you fine cooks for helping me create new ones with my own grandson. These days spent together are truly the best present of all. Here’s to a bountiful season of friendship, food and family!