In Good Season: Conjuring Christmases Past

For those of us who have never quite outgrown “visions of sugarplums” as described in the poem by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) or his version of St. Nicholas, who had “cheeks like roses, nose like a cherry!” and “shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!” . . . something sweet, delicious and homemade is a special treat.

If that sweet treat is something you remember from Christmases past, what could be better?

With this in mind, I’ve collected some old-fashioned recipes. You won’t find them in any of the latest food magazines but perhaps you’ll recall the taste, or even the aroma that fills the kitchen as you open the oven door.



Makes about 5 dozen cookies

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, one teaspoon of the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with 1½ cups of the sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla, then gradually add the dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Fold in the raisins and the chopped walnuts.

In a shallow bowl, stir together the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, then roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are lightly browned around the edges. Cool on a rack.

This will make about 5 dozen cookies, depending on size.


Honey Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup coarse white decorating sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the butter, honey, sugar, baking soda and egg yolk. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Gradually sift in the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. The dough should be just firm enough to be gathered into a soft but compact ball.

To shape each cookie, pinch off about one rounded teaspoon of dough and on a heavily floured surface, roll it with the palm of your hand into a ball. Dip the top of the ball into the coarse sugar; place it, sugar side up, on a baking sheet. Make similar balls of the remaining dough and arrange them a half inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes until delicately browned. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. (About 2 dozen, depending on size.)


Fig Squares

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. each: cinnamon & ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 25 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they are smooth. Alternately add the flour mixture and the sugar, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla, figs and walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is delicately browned and firm to the touch. Place on a rack to cool to room temperature, then cut into 1½-inch squares. Sift a little powdered sugar evenly over the squares. (Makes about 4 dozen.)


Pecan Fudge

  • 6 Tbsps. butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, warm the butter and sugar over low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Add the cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and salt; stir until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and let cool before cutting.

(Makes 2 dozen pieces.)


Hot Spiced Fruit Punch

  • 1 gallon apple juice
  • 1 quart orange juice
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 1 heaping cup sugar
  • 1 16-oz can frozen pineapple juice, thawed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsps. whole cloves

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Serve in warmed mugs with a cinnamon stick stirrer.

Yield: 24 servings.

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