Let It Snow, Let It....
We've been more or less snowed in for days now and, you guessed it, it is snowing again today. I don’t mind really. It is kind of fun in its own way. We haven't seen snow like this since we moved to the Pacific Northwest a decade or so ago. A few years ago we were iced in for a week in January and that was treacherously strange but it lacked the picture perfect beauty and gentle wonder of this December's snowfall. If nothing else this will be something to remember!
I have enjoyed watching the snow fall peacefully outside my window, wondering if the weatherman’s predictions will prove to be accurate, wide-eyed with a child-like appreciation of the power of nature. I have been counting my blessings and making the most of the situation. I have enjoyed the exuberance of an unexpected kitchen-full of hungry teenagers who slid down the hill to my house for a while, and the wonderfully generous gestures of friends and neighbors who stop by to see if we have been able to get out and if we need anything.
I have done all of this pleasant watching and waiting from the security of my own warm kitchen. Luckily, I had been to the grocery before the snow hit and my pantry was full. So while we haven’t been doing much of the usual pre-Christmas hurrying and scurrying, while I haven’t been able to buy or deliver gifts at the usual festive events, I have been in the kitchen cooking and baking and making candy.
I have been enjoying the challenge of new recipes, like the one for Blistering Peanut Brittle, and the fun of making recipes that remind me of home, like the one for Kentucky Bourbon Balls. Best of all, I have enjoyed making family heirloom recipes which are close to my heart, like the one for Peanut Butter Fudge that is carefully hand written in a cookbook my Aunt Hen put together for me as a wedding gift.
Finishing the Christmas Shopping
As I started to make another batch of fudge I paused to think that at this point I have probably made more candy than we need. Still, here I am, making more. I enjoy making it and these sweets are the ones that both family and friends ask for over the holidays. While we can get by with fewer gifts this year it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without those special recipes that bring back Christmases past, the good tastes and smells, the memories of those wonderful times and the special people we share in common.
And then, as I thought about it, it occurred to me that maybe I do have my Christmas shopping done. I just need to package the candy I am making and give it as gifts. After all, that's what my aunt and I used to do. Though she lived alone, Aunt Hen would make batch after batch of Christmas cookies and candy every Christmas. She wrote out lists of recipes she wanted to try, noting the cookbook they could be found in and the page number, on a white tablet she kept by her chair at the dining room table.
During December Aunt Hen would bake several evenings a week from her list. Often I would run up to her house to help with her baking or to try a recipe of my own. When the recipes were completed we would taste them and then pack them into large brightly colored Christmas tins, nestling our treats between layers of waxed paper. When folks stopped by or when we were going out to see a neighbor or friend we would put together an assortment of holiday goodies on a pretty plate and present them as a gift.
A Special Touch
With that in mind I did something a bit different with the pan of fudge I was making. After the fudge had been stirred, poured in a pan and cooled slightly, instead of cutting it into squares I took several metal cookie cutters and pressed them into the still soft fudge. Then, after the fudge had set, I peeled the fudge pieces away from the outside of the cookie cutters and removed the fudge filled cookie cutters to a separate platter. I finished the top by melting dark chocolate morsels in the microwave, stirring until smooth and then spreading the melted chocolate over the fudge to the edges of the cookie cutter, filling in the area until the surface of the chocolate was level.
Once filled I put the shapes in a cool spot to set. When the chocolate was firm I put the cookie-cutter-bound fudge shapes into decorative bags and tied them with ribbons. The result was several small gifts from a single pan of fudge plus I had plenty of bits left over for tasting. These scraps could have been rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate to make fudge truffles but I elected to set them out as tastes for my family instead and they quickly disappeared. Maybe next time.
I also put together bags of Blistering Peanut Brittle and Kentucky Bourbon Balls. Each bag makes a nice gift on its own or several small bags can be gathered into a basket to offer a sampler of holiday candies.
Here's wishing you the cozy joys of a white Christmas!