Wednesday, December 22, 2010

memories of Christmas goodies....

I really miss my Grama Hall and my Grama Niles. Grama Niles died when I was 9 and Grama Hall when I was 15 years old. Both left such indelible impressions on me in many ways. As I have been busy making holiday goodies I can't help but think about both of them.

Grama Hall loved evaporated milk. In my memory she always had hot tea at meals with evaporated milk. I never remember her drinking water or milk made from dried milk like us! Funny how I loved dried milk when I was a kid, white or chocolate! Back in those days soda wasn't a staple in the house.

I remember evaporated milk being used in so many things especially her Christmas cookies. My mom makes Grama Hall's cookies every Christmas and even some other holidays like hearts at Valentine's Day. I remember helping my mom stir, and stir, and stir some more! The bin of cookie cutters came out and we would make batches and batches of Grama Hall's cookies. We would be so tired by the time dinner came that we would put them in big tins (the ones that would hold the flour, today I guess people would call them the holiday popcorn tins). Then in the next couple of days Mom would make the frosting. When the 5 of us kids would help ice and decorate, Mom would put the frosting in Corning cereal bowls and add different food coloring to each bowl. We had to have green for the hollys and trees, red for the stockings and Santa. It seems like we always used white for the bells and stars and on the bells we would put a cinnamon dot candy for the ringer. We would use sprinkles and decorate to our hearts content. Of course some had to remain plain for Dad! Even today I leave some plain, I think I really like those too for dipping in my coffee or chocolate milk!

Back to the evaporated milk. Grama Hall's cookie recipes called for sour milk. She would add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a cup of evaporated milk and yum! What a difference it makes in the cookies. Everytime I make the sour milk I think of Grama! Her sugar cookie recipe also has nutmeg and that is something I find different than other sugar cookies. Grama Hall's are the best! This year I made her raisin filled cookies and soft molasses ones too.

In the years that I grew up every girl would have a hope chest. A trunk or a box of future items to be used when married. I remember so clearly sitting with my Grama Hall, going through her recipe box. I am so happy today that I did that. She gave me the index cards to write the recipes. They are still the cards I use today, probably over 40 years old! When Current started making plastics I remember putting Grama Hall's recipes in the plastics first. They have always been treasures to me.

Another holiday goodie Mom always made are popcorn balls! Such a tradition that I can't let a Christmas go by without making Mom's fudge and popcorn balls. I still remember Mom standing at the stove bringing the popcorn ball mixture to a boil and then saying, "Kids come on! I just saw the hair!" You know when the mixture is ready because you lift the spoon and a hair forms! Doesn't that sound funny when you read it! Yesterday when I made the popcorn balls, Renee was intrigued with the hair! Well, when it is ready it is like sheer madness getting that hot mixture into the 4 batches of popcorn you've popped and getting the balls made while it is burning hot! We Hall kids have had our share of finger burns, that is for sure!

Mom was so concerned about Jamaica not having the ingredients for popcorn balls after our first Christmas here that the next time we went home she got Karo Syrup, popcorn and cream of tartar for me! I am so glad I have the right stuff here in Jamaica!

My friend Cheri sent me a really neat email the other day. It fits right into the Christmas Goodie Blog!

Christmas Cookie Rules
1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you are making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free - rule #1 applies to your friend. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone, and being the friend that you are makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have 3 and green ones have 5 - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching Miracle on 34th Street have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate has no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

And finally...
10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories.

The Niles side of me loves cookies. I think that if my mom and I lived in the same house we would survive on cookies and tea.

They our the #1 comfort food! Something I would really like to know is how far back to the recipes go? Where did Grama Hall get them? Like Grama Nile's suet pudding, (that is to good to be true) where did she ever get that recipe and whoever thought that suet would taste good in a cake with butter sauce? Memories, questions, longing for home kind of moments!

Happy Holiday Baking!


  1. Hi Deb,

    Yep. I remember those times! I enjoy reading your blog, and I can tell that you enjoy writing it because it comes from your heart.

    I don't know why, but my Christmas cookies never taste as good as I remember Mom's being! Even though I use the very same recipe card that she did. I think that recipe might have come from your great Grandma Hall. I'll have to check.

    I remember making popcorn balls with you guys at your house. When I make them now, I use your Mom's Recipe. How about her Plum Pudding?

    Love, Rhonda

  2. After I posted that comment, I realized I said "Plum Pudding" instead of Suet Pudding! I get hungry for it every Christmas... Do you remember Grandma Hall making Yellow Cake, and serving it warm out of the oven with hot Chocolate Pudding poured over it?