The Holidays are here again and along with them come the many open houses, teas, parties and other special gatherings we look forward to all year. And while the Holidays are very busy, they are also a time when you may want to spend a little extra time in the kitchen making family favorites. For those who really see their cooking as an art, you may want to delve into the past and find some old family recipes that will bring a unique touch to your Christmas or New Year’s gatherings.
When you begin to look into old recipes you will see the signs of culture on them. You’ll find recipe titles such as Mummaw Ruby’s Double Crust Cherry Cobbler, or Aunt Agnes’ Sponge Cake. You’ll see the remnants of other languages in Christmas Stollen or Peppernuts. You’ll find regional specialties such as Sweet Potato Pie in the Southern areas of the United States. These recipes have endured through hard times such as WWII when they made War Cake because of a shortage of butter and other ingredients. They’ve been passed down through the generations making them family treasures. They remind us of our families long ago and the ways their lives were different. They remind us of the struggles each generation has endured and the goodness of family life.
Old-fashioned recipes weren’t the time-saving, no-bake, instant recipes that we see everywhere today—saving time wasn’t the point. Women’s lives were based in the home and cooking and baking were a big part of every waking day. Providing meals for the family was part of the job description and the usual fare was simpler than today. But there were some benefits to cooking “from scratch” which made it more of an investment for those we love rather than just a way to be filled. There was and is satisfaction in creating special dishes to please family members. Holidays have always been, by definition, the time to pull out all the stops and create our best. So let’s take a look at some old-time favorites and make some holiday treats to remember.
Fruitcakes have always been Christmas fare. In fact, there are lots of jokes about them due to the fact that they are made of heavy ingredients and tend to last a long time. Still, many people enjoy them with their rich dark background brimming with fruits and nuts.
Gingerbreads and ginger cakes are holiday favorites. Gingerbread cookies in the form of men are special favorites of children.
Apple cakes or applesauce cakes are traditional fall and winter delights. They speak of the rich harvest just brought in and smell wonderful while they bake.
Puddings of various kinds are old-fashioned favorites. Persimmon pudding, Scottish Christmas pudding, and don’t forget English Plum Pudding.
Cookies of all shapes and sizes are always welcome on Christmas trays. Russian teacakes, Swedish krumkaka, German pfefferneuse, sugar cookies with decoration, ginger bread men, butter cookies and so many more.
Christmas Stollen and other sweet bread loaves make wonderful gifts. Eaten on Christmas morning, they cheer the lovely Christmas breakfasts.
Cobblers and Crisps are welcome additions to holiday meals. They make the most of berries, cherries, apples and other fruits available from the fall crops.
Pumpkin and cranberry desserts are another reminder of the bounty of the harvest now stored up for the winter.
Some surprise recipes from the past make interesting taste tests. Try the tomato soup cake or the ugly cake.
You may have a sweet tooth and opt to try some of the old-timey candy recipes. There are fudge, fondant, caramels, and so many more.
If you have an interest in tracing family recipes you may want to log on to heritage recipe websites where you can search for lost recipes, exchange old ones you treasure and find recipes from other families or cultures to add to your repertoire. Some sites for heritage recipes are: www.heritagerecipes.com and www.thatsmyhome.com
The holidays are such a special time. Pick and choose wisely when deciding on old dessert favorites to create this year. The time you invest in bringing back memories of good eating from the past will be well worth it when you see the smiles of satisfaction on the faces of family and friends.