Time for Christmas Baking!

“I think a little mouse has been in my cupboard!”, Mother would say mischievously. Of course I knew exactly who the ‘mouse’ or ‘mice’ were that had been sampling the baking supplies in the kitchen cupboard near the old sink. I was the ‘main’ mouse, and loved to sneak a little taste of the walnuts, coconut and cherries that Mother stored for her Christmas baking. My brother Roger was the other mouse in the house. He would sneak handfuls of chocolate chips from her baking cupboard after school, and scurry away into the living room.

walnutschipits

coconut                   cherries

Luckily, on those days, so long ago, there were still enough ingredients so Mother could add yet another type of cookie onto her list.

date squares   chocolate chews

Stacks of cookies and squares had been accumulating in the old chest freezer over the past couple of weeks.

toffee   chocolate fudge

 

She was knee-deep into her Christmas baking, and as the weeks flew by, there was an ever-growing supply of shortbread, sugar cookies, chocolate chews, date squares, fudge, and toffee piling up in preparation for the big day.

 

christmas-cookies

 

One of my favourite types of cookies Mother made, and tucked away in the freezer for Christmas, were the peanut butter balls. Once thawed, they were as sweet and tasty as the day they were made. They don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients, and they look festive and elegant on any Christmas dessert plate. Make them now, and stash them in your freezer! Hopefully, the ‘mice’ in your house will leave a few for Christmas!

 

kids-and-cookies

Peanut Butter Balls

1 c of peanut butter
1 c of rice crispies
½ c chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp of melted butter
1 c icing sugar
Desiccated coconut

Mix together the peanut butter, nuts, rice crispies, butter and vanilla, and roll into balls.
Drop the balls into a mixture of thin icing
Roll in coconut
Place on a sheet of waxed paper, and let them set

For variety,  Peanut Butter Balls may be dipped in melted chocolate, mixed with sprinkles, M & Ms, or decorated with bits of pretzels and candies for a festive holiday look!

peanut-butter-balls-dipped-in-chocolate  peanut-butter-balls-with-holiday-sprinkles

peanut-butter-balls-chocolate-chips-and-sprinkles  peanut-butter-ball-reindeer

 

Enjoy this traditional Christmas treat now, or freeze for the holidays!

little kid and cookies

 

What would a Christmas sweets plate be without some melt-in-your-mouth homemade Shortbread Cookies!

 

whipped shortbread

Shortbread Cookies

1/2 c  corn starch

1/2 c  icing sugar

1 c  all purpose flour

1 c  soft butter

Mix dry ingredients.   Blend-in butter, until soft dough is formed.  Chill for 1/2 hour.  Shape into balls 1 inch in diameter.  Flatten with fork.  Decorate with cherry slices.

Bake in slow oven at 300 degrees F, for 20 – 25 minutes, until light golden.

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Be sure to leave some Christmas cookies for Santa!

 

Santa and cookies

 

Who was the lady behind all of those melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies?

Audry Stafford competed in local fairs in Lanark County for many decades, and won so many prizes in the baking divisions that eventually she was asked to become a Judge.

In the years that followed she judged baking at fairs, large and small, across the county, and throughout Eastern Ontario.

 

Mother with birthday cake

 

photo:  Audry Stafford with Tib Stafford, in their farmhouse kitchen, on his birthday, July 15, 1990, Third Line, Bathurst Township, Lanark County, Ontario.

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Recipes in this story are from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”
93 of Audry’s prize-winning recipes are assembled in a book “Recipes and Recollections”, along with stories from her five children, about growing up in rural Eastern Ontario, spanning the years from the 1940s through to the 1980s.

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

Recipes and Recollections book cover sept 2012

Sweet Summer Sensation – Mother’s Homemade Preserves

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During the summer months, when Mother was busy with her preserves, we could never be sure which of the many delightful aromas we’d encounter in the old kitchen.  It might be fresh tomatoes stewing and simmering away, or the sharp scent of the chili sauce.  If the cucumbers were ready in the garden, we’d smell dill, or onions, or sweet mustard boiling on top of the stove.  My favourite scents were the berries – raspberries, strawberries and sometimes strawberry-rhubarb.

Preserving the fruits or vegetables from the garden was a necessary task in the summer months with so many hungry kids in our house.  Jars were filled, labelled, and stored in the pantry, in neat rows on shelves, and the extras lined up along the floor.  Pickles, vegetables and jams were a welcome sight mid-winter, when the fresh crops from the garden were a faded memory.

Imagine coming down the stairs on a cold winter morning, walking across the chilly floor, a layer of ice on the inside of the windows and then seeing a mason jar of homemade jam in the middle of the kitchen table.  It was as though the spirit of summer was brought back to life after its long wait in the pantry.  The toast would pop up, and the jam would be spread generously, on the thick slices of homemade bread.  The berries, picked at their peak of perfection, tasted sweet and fresh, and were a temporary escape from the harsh weather that lay waiting, outside the kitchen walls.

The preserves at our house were never complicated, and the ingredients were basic.  There was no extra money for fancy additions to the recipes, so they contained only things at hand.  Because of their simplicity, they retained the true flavour of the vegetable or fruit, and it was as though the essence of the harvest was captured and frozen in time, in those precious little jars.

The Strawberry Jam recipe that follows contains only three ingredients – strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.  It is simple to make, and will keep for a year if stored in a cool place.  It also doesn’t require any fancy ‘gear’ to make it.  We had no special pots or kitchen ‘machines’ at home, and yet year after year, Mother managed to dozens of prizes at the local fairs, with her simple recipes.

What you’ll need:

2  pounds of fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, etc.

4 cups of white sugar

One quarter of a cup of lemon juice

Before you get started, boil your mason jars for ten minutes, and let them dry upside down on a towel.

Crush the berries with a potato masher in a saucepan, then add the sugar, and lemon juice

Stir over low heat to melt sugar, then, bring to a full, rolling boil for two minutes

Pour into jars, leaving a half inch of space at the top, and screw lids on tightly

Place filled jars in a deep pot until water is one inch over the top, and boil for five minutes

Remove, apply a label if desired, store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Hamburger relish

Hamburger Relish

4 c ground cucumbers

1/2 c ground red sweet peppers

3 c ground celery

4 Tbsp. salt

2 c white vinegar

1 1/2 c ground green sweet peppers

3 c ground onion

1 Tbsp mustard seed

2 1/2 c. white sugar

1 Tbsp. celery seed

(sprinkle vegetables with salt, and let stand for 2 hours)

Drain well

Bring juice to a boil

Stir in Vegetables and bring to a boil

Simmer for 10 minutes

Fill into mason jars

 

Enjoy the sweet taste of summer, all year round!

 

(recipes from “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen)
ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
available in local stores, or online

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