When I was growing up, December was the month for baking. I was lucky to live on a hobby farm that was surrounded by immigrant farmers. Since my own folks were of Hungarian origin I was exposed to their culture and foods. My immediate neighbours were Ukrainian, Scottish, Russian, British and of German descent. Up the road were Polish, Dutch and Portuguese nationalities to mention a few. There was never any animosity towards one another as far as I could tell. Whatever their faith we all came together at Christmas.
I swear that when you opened our kitchen door you could smell my mother’s kifli, the neighbour’s shortbread, cherry filled perogies, strudel and stollen all mingled together, enticing one to visit another. Mom kept the kettle on low heat just in case anyone stopped by for tea. She always had a plate of homemade cookies and other delicacies she baked for the occasion. In fact when my Mom was alive I cannot remember a time she didn’t have the kettle on and a baked good on hand.
One of my favourite memories from my childhood was where I attended my first year of school. It was a one room schoolhouse called
on Cherry Valley Road. It was built in approximately 1911. There was a small stream that ran through a wooded area surrounding the school. There was lots of space for us to play at recess. We used sleds in those days, to go down the snow covered hills and skate on the stream. Cherry Valley
Our teacher, Mr. Danly, who was only a kid himself a nineteen year old, hosted a family night at the school. I can remember how excited and nervous I was as we drove down the old gravel road that evening. Mom had sewed me a burgundy coloured velvet dress for the occasion. All of us grade one kids had to stand up and in turn each recite a letter from the word CHRISTMAS. I was the letter ‘M’ for myrrh. My parents proudly watched as I spoke. I can remember looking around at all of the smiling faces, the glow of the fire coming from the old pot bellied stove as it worked its hardest to produce heat. From the window panes a gentle snow was falling and you could see the flakes, they were that large. We ate cookies that everyone brought and drank hot coco. Each of us kids got a small bag of candy before we left. Those truly were the good old days in so many ways.
It is nice for every family or individual to celebrate traditions. It provides a sense of security to know that one thing is constant every year. In today’s society there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that. It is also good to shift things up a bit. This year I am going to read a lovely and heartfelt story to everyone titled, ‘ A Christmas Story, a true story’ written by Jay Frankston. I ordered a hard copy of the book this past January. It is a wonderful story and one where we can all learn something about giving. You can order a hard copy of it through:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/542144.A_Christmas_Story_a_true_story or listen to it on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOJEvQMhnFk&feature=related
I recently delved through my vast cookbook collection and found the ‘kifli ‘recipe my Mother baked every Christmas season. There are many versions of the recipe but this is the one she used.
Mom’s Hungarian Kifli
For the dough:
3 c. flour
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
¾ c. lard
½ c. milk
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for an hour. Roll out the dough and cut it into 2 inch squares. You can fill it with a walnut mixture and roll each square up corner to corner making a crescent shape. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
1 lb. ground walnuts
½ c. of sugar
½ c. milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Heat milk. Add sugar and walnuts; stir. Add butter and lemon juice. Cool before spreading on dough.
Try a kifli with a shot of Hungarian Apricot brandy. That will certainly put you into the holiday spirit! Enjoy.
It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself. ~Charles Dickens