06 December 2010

Family recipe Monday: holiday sweets

Downtown Rapid City lights

The holiday season is definitely upon us, ready or not. Mostly not, here, because it is also the end of the semester. Yesterday was the college's annual choir concert. We have attended this since we arrived here, because it seems that I have always had students singing in the performance and felt the need to be there. The productions are always excellent. Our attendance has not always been so.

Two years ago, we plowed through 2-foot snow drifts to get to the cathedral, and that caused snow and ice to work deep into the mechanism of Gene's power chair. That was the year that the choirs performed the Messiah. The whole thing. Sometime after the Hallelujah Chorus, in one of the achingly beautiful and very quiet solos, the chair started audibly sparking and smoking. It caused a great perturbation in the rows behind us. We were seated in the front row, so about the only good thing anyone could say was that it did not interrupt the performance.

1. Every retired engineer in the audience (and in Rapid City there are tons and heaps of retired engineers) mobbed us after the performance to offer help with the chair problems.
2. My respect for the music director soared to the ceiling and has stayed there ever since.
3. There are still a few people, including my mother, who call Gene "Sparky" to this day.
4. Great music cannot be impaired by awkward moments.
5. Astonishingly, we are still allowed to attend the concerts.

Ah, December. This is a time of year for inclusion, empathy, affection, and large quantities of sweet treats that you would not touch the rest of the year. Here are a few from the Simple Gifts files.

Divinity is a great example of a super-sweet holiday treat that is never made, seen or heard of the rest of the year. For those of you worried about the raw egg whites: they are thoroughly cooked by the addition of the boiling sugar solution. You can either drop it by spoonfuls onto wax paper, or pour it into a wax-paper-lined pan and leave it to cool before cutting. It does not work nearly as well in a humid atmosphere. Be careful--boiling sugar solutions cause nasty burns.


4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Karo syrup
3 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla

Cook sugar, water and Karo to hard-boil stage. Pour into beaten egg whites, slowly at first. When candy begins to harden, beat with spoon until ready to pour out.
--Bonnie Hall

Not everyone cares for candied fruit, but you can substitute good-quality dried fruit of your choice in the following recipe. I am particularly partial to dried cherries, papayas, mangoes and pineapples in combination, diced to about the same size.

 Holiday fruit drops

1 cup shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup buttermilk
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ cups pecans
2 cups candied fruit
2 cups cut-up dates

Mix shortening, sugar and eggs well. Stir in buttermilk. Measure flour by dipping method by sifting. Blend dry ingredients and stir in. Stir in pecans, fruit and dates. Chill at least 1 hour. Heat oven to 400o F. Drop rounded tsp. of dough 2” apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Place pecan half on each cookie. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly. Yield 8 dozen.
--Vada Brooks Johnson

Everyone seems to have a recipe for the world's best fudge. This one is ours. I would use butter instead of margarine, honestly.

Million dollar fudge

4 ½ cups sugar
1 tall can milk
2 sticks oleo
18 oz chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Bring sugar and milk to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Put 2 sticks oleo and chocolate chips into large bowl. Pour milk mixture over and beat with mixer until thick and creamy. Add vanilla and nuts and pout in buttered pan.
--Vada Brooks Johnson

Happy Monday. Please keep the sparkles in your eyes.

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