I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cherry Mash, and Holiday Traditions

I set out the appetizers: labnah and pita, cucumbers with creme fraiche, chili spiked mango slices, and popped the champagne. A large French press full of coffee stood at the ready. As the doorbell rang I fired up the Christmas station on Pandora.

It was time for the third annual Christmas candy making party with my girlfriends. Each year we gather together, each one bringing the recipe and ingredients for two holiday treats. We spend the day catching up, testing our sugar cooking skills, and snacking, all the while turning out rounds of sweets. By the end of the day, when we think we just can't dip another thing in chocolate, we divvy up the bounty to bring joy to countless circles of friends and hope desperately that we will be able to fall asleep that night through the sugar high.
Though the tradition is a fairly new one, it brings me joy and a sense of home each time we come together and I cross my fingers that it will be something we continue for many years to come.

Through most of the year I ache to try new things. Yet around the holidays my desire turns towards the familiar. I'm sure it stems from years of repetition centered around Christmas. My parents actually "ooing" and "awing" as we first lit up the lights on our decorated tree. Christmas Eve snacks shared with customers at my uncle's country/feed store. Then getting dressed up for candlelight service at the Lutheran Church and more snacks afterwards at my grandmother's house. Home before Santa arrives, with the chance to open JUST ONE gift before bed. My little brother and sister tiptoeing into my room sometime around 5am whispering, "Santa's been here!" to wake me up before shaking my poor parents out of bed (who probably fell asleep around 3am after a late-night wrapping frenzy). Presents unwrapped, the cousins calling to find out why we weren't at grandma's yet. A big, giant breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy, piles of bacon, all to be consumed downstairs, hiding from the parents (which we still do as adults, even though some have kids of their own). Presents, naps by the fire, running to play outside. The same thing, comforting and consistent, every year.

It's been a few years since I've made it back for these holiday traditions, so the husband and I have created our own. We nibble on fondue every year as we deck out our tree, eat cinnamon rolls and Baileys spiked coffee as we peak into our stockings Christmas morning. Often we will see a movie in the afternoon, followed by a fancy dinner prepared at home (with lots of wine and cocktails along the way). These little actions, repeated each year, help it feel like we aren't quite as far away from family and friends. It's all part of what makes us feel at home here in the big city.

What are the traditions that you had in your childhood? Any that you carry through with today? What are the new traditions you've started with your family now that you are an adult? Whatever your plans, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.

Cherry Mash
This is another recipe from my grandmother. She always serves this up at my uncle's store for the Christmas Eve celebration for customers plus she saves some back for us to indulge in at her home on Christmas Day. They are a version of the old-fashioned candy bar and the recipe is adapted from a newspaper article my grandmother clipped back in the '70s. My girlfriends and I whipped up a batch at our candy making party this year and I can't help but feel at home every time I bite into one. This recipe makes quite a large batch of the candy.

16 oz. jar maraschino cherries
2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 cans cherry frosting (strawberry frosting will also work in a pinch)
1 stick melted margarine
2 t. vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 lbs. salted peanuts
3 (12 oz.) bags chocolate chips

Drain the cherries very well and dice. Mix cherries, sugar, frosting, butter, vanilla and milk well. Chill for 1 hour (it may help to freeze the mixture for a bit of time to help it really set up).

Shape into small balls (about 1-1 1/2" in diameter) and chill again for another hour (again, depending on consistency of mixture, it may be best to freeze the filling before dipping).

Finely chop the peanuts. Melt chocolate chips and mix in the nuts. Dip the cherry filling into the chocolate to completely coat, then place on a wax paper lined sheet pan. Refrigerate to cool.


That Girl said...

One of the benefits of being Jewish and married to a CTolic is that we get to create our own Christmas traditions. Like drinking cocoa and watching Christmas movies while decorating the tree. Or suffering through Christmas with his family and then having a mini celebration when we return home and dig into our stockings. (13 years and I apparently still haven't earned a a stocking at his family's house!)

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Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

Keep up the good work :) from TheStillery, a stuart bar in Florida