Friday, December 4, 2009

Virtual Advent Tour

Merry Christmas and welcome to our blog! We're happy to share with you a piece of our Christmas. In our family, December brings Grandma's Sugar Cookies. This tradition is now into it's 5th generation. Beginning with my Great-Grandmother, Carrie, baking and decorating sugar cookies has become an established part of our Christmas celebration. As young housewives around the turn of the last century, Carrie and her neighbor began collecting cookie cutters - passing the collection back and forth between the two households during the holiday season. My grandmother, Rosa, helped with the baking and garnishing, and eventually taught her daughters to do the same.

I remember many cold, winter days gathered around Grandma's table, shaking colored sprinkles onto all shapes of cookies, licking my fingers (and, yes, then touching all the cookies), and arguing with my sisters over who used up all the red sugar. When Grandma and Grandpa retired and were frequently traveling at Christmas, Mom took over the baking duties. Naturally, as time passed we all moved away and began our own families and in time grandchildren visited to help out.

Last year, Mom decided that since 7 of her 8 grandkids were 16 or older, the cookie tradition was on hiatus until the next generation was ready to take over. The uproar from the kids was so loud that she drug the cookie cutters back out this year and continued the custom. Seems high school and college students still like to gather at Grandma's.

Dave and I now have two grandsons who live in Albuquerque (a seven hour drive from us) and schedules don't usually allow for two visits in December, so we have yet to share this experience with them, but our empty-nest years are just around the corner and I'm sure we will continue the fun with them and the many other grandchildren (granddaughters?) we're hoping to have.

The cutters my mom uses are the original collection, with some additions of her own. I wish now that I could ask Grandma about the beginning of this piece of my heritage. Some of the cutters look hand-made - who made them? What did they use for decorations in her youth? Were candy Jimmies and Sprinkles available in the early part of the 20th century? Did she have friends or cousins who took part? Family legend has it that the collection began with a few cutters that were brought from Germany by my great-great grandparents, is that true? As with many things, it didn't seem important when I had the opportunity to ask and, now that I realize how precious this tradition is, Grandma's no longer here to answer my questions, but the memories we made in her kitchen will last for generations.

Below is Grandma's sugar cookie recipe. It's probably not much different than the one in your recipe box, with the exception of the "sour milk". To make sour milk, stir 1 T. vinegar into 1 cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Whatever recipe you use, we wish you a Merry Christmas and lot's of holiday memories.

Rosa's Sugar Cookies:
2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening (I prefer butter-flavored Crisco)
2 eggs - beat lightly and fill to 1 cup with sour milk
1 t. baking soda
5 c. flour
Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, then dry ingredients. Chill in refrigerator, roll out and cut. Bake at 375 for 11 minutes.
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  1. Making sugar cookies is one of my favorite traditions, too. The recipe is only passed down from my mom, though, with joke-embellishments added in from my brother, which makes it all the more special.

  2. What a wonderful heritage you have in the recipe, the cutters and all the years of memories. I'd like to believe the cutters came over from Germany too. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'm going to give it a try.

  3. I'm glad the cookie tradition was brought back this year. Of course older teens still like to gather with Gramma. I'm twice their age, and I still do, too!

  4. Lovely heritage. I really enjoyed reading your story about the cookies. I fully understand the importance of asking those questions while you can. I am going to have to ask my mother and father about the many photos of unnamed family members that I inherited and am in the midst of scanning. Its important! Happy Holidays to you and Davve from Louise in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  5. That's an amazing tradition. We love baking sugar cookies this time of year, too, but we don't have nearly the history that your family has. What a special thing. Happy Holidays!

  6. This is a lovely post. I have recently started writing notes in my cookbook so that, if I pass it down to other people, they'll have ways to remember me. I often wish that I could go back and ask a question to someone who is gone. I guess that's why we always miss those people.

  7. Something about grandma-made sugar cookies! I've made them with her several times and without her a few times, and they're never as good when I bake them alone.

  8. What a lovely tradition! It's a good reminder to ask those questions, too. My father wants everyone at his family's Christmas gathering this year to share stories, particularly his parents.

    I have to laugh at the uproar, too, because I am sure that's exactly what would happen if some of my mom's family's traditions got set by the wayside... my brother in particular is VERY protective of family traditions!

  9. My grandma also made homemade sugar cookies but we were too far away to get there to make them with her. We made them at our house growing up and now we make them at my house. My kids love it and it's an integral part of Christmas to spend the time together.

  10. I love making sugar cookies and enjoy experimenting with all the various recipes. I look forward to trying yours!

  11. What a wonderful story. I just loved it. My own Christmas cookie recipe is here:

    and why do we spell cookie with an ie not a y? :<)

  12. what a delightful tradition--yum I do love sugar cookies.

  13. Yay for cookies. I think I am going to make Christmas cookies this year. Cooking and me is rather limited, but I am sure I can handle some things. :) Thanks for joining in for the Virtual Advent and Happy Holidays!

  14. Cookie baking with my mom is one of my best memories of Christmas. Thanks for sharing it.