Christmas Traditions From The Kitchen

IN THE KITCHEN

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This Christmas, more than most, I find myself thinking about the holidays of my childhood. No matter where we were living, we always would go "home" to Oklahoma for Christmas.

This year, the season is a sad one for me. On Dec. 9 we made a trip "home" to Oklahoma to bury my grandfather, Stafford "Mac" McQuerrey. He was 92 and the last of my grandparents.

We were invited to go to his home after the reception and select special mementos to take with us. We all chose pictures and I also collected my grandmother's cookbooks.

I have many wonderful memories of our Christmas visits in Oklahoma and they are all filled with the aromas and tastes of all the special treats Grandma McQuerrey had waiting for us. I doubt I can ever be the master of home cooking that she was, but I know I will certainly try my hand with these recipes and invite you to do the same.

The first one is from my mother's family, the Odells. I don't remember when we did this, but it resulted in one of the best Christmases ever -- we made taffy. The family called it California Boss.

Searching the Internet for something with that name was not especially successful, then I tried a search for "taffy with paraffin" and there it was (I think). You will need a big gang of people at your house if you try this. I think it took about 20 of us to do the taffy pull. It was put on a hay hook stuck in a window frame and pulled the full width of the house -- about half-dozen times ... of course we could have been making a bigger batch than what results from the following:

California Boss Taffy

2-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/4 ounce paraffin

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon flavoring (peppermint or vanilla)

1 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1/4 teaspoon. food coloring

Combine sugar, corn syrup, milk, paraffin, gelatin and butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Heat mixture, stirring constantly until it forms a hard ball (245 degrees in winter; 260 degrees in summer). Remove from pan; add flavoring and color. Pull into strips and twist.

Grandma McQuerrey had a tremendous sweet tooth and passed that gene along to her family, and satisfied it every Christmas with different homemade candies. Some of the hand-written recipes for her favorites were stuck between the pages of her cookbooks I brought back with me.

Divinity

1/2 cup water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

In saucepan mix first four ingredients. Cook to 260 degrees or hard ball stage. Meanwhile, beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly pour in hot syrup. Beat until candy holds shape. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar. Drop from teaspoon on wax paper. Let stand several hours. Store in air-tight container.

January Thaw Candy

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons oleo (margarine)

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Boil the sugar, milk, syrup and soda until it forms a soft ball in cold water. (Cooking with soda caramelizes the sugar and the candy is light brown in color.) Remove from heat, add margarine, vanilla and nuts and beat until creamy. Drop on buttered cookie sheet or waxed paper.

Coconut Candy

1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

1 can coconut (Angel is preferred because it is cut fine)

1 cup chopped pecans

1 package powdered sugar

Mix and chill. Roll in small rolls and chill again.

1 package chocolate chips

1/2 block paraffin

Melt paraffin and chocolate in top of double boiler. Using toothpicks, dip coconut balls in chocolate mix.

Brown Candy

6 cups white sugar

2 cups white (light corn) syrup

1/2 pound creamery butter

1 large can and one small can evaporated milk

Combine all ingredients and cook over low heat until it forms a medium ball. Beat until stiff.

Add:

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Pour into deep pan and let stand until firm.

Never Fail Peanut Brittle

3 cups white sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

1/2 cup water

3 cups raw Spanish peanuts

3 teaspoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons soda

Boil sugar, syrup and water until thread spins, then add peanuts. Stir continuously after peanuts are added. Cook until it turns a brownish gold. Take from heat, add butter, soda and salt. Pour onto 2 buttered cookie sheets and let cool.

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