One of the delights of the season is having the house fill with the aromas of homemade treats. When the treats are made from long-treasured family recipes, they stir memories of those who cooked before us.
I asked readers to send along recipes that have been passed down in their family for three generations or more, from cook to cook, and that they look forward to making — and eating — every year.
Norm and Fran Collins had a recipe for a molasses cookie that fit the bill. Norm, who is 86, said when he was small he would visit his grandmother “and the first thing I would do when I arrived was to dash to the kitchen and into the cookie jar for her delicious molasses cookies. She was always prepared with the jar full,” he remembered.
He loved the cookies so well that when he married his wife, Fran, his mother shared the recipe with the new bride. “That was 63 years ago and I am still making them for him,” Fran said.
Norm said, “We visited my mother and grandfather in Oneonta very often and of course I expected my mother to have a supply of grandma’s molasses cookies in the cookie jar. Fran asked my mother for the recipe and copied it from the old, brown, worn book from my grandmother,” he said.
Norm’s mother told him the recipe was passed down from her great-grandmother Sally Ann Lindsay Green, who was born in Oneonta on Dec. 10, 1825. But it is possible the recipe is even older than that, he said, adding that it is not just past generations who like them. Collins said his daughter and grandchildren all make these molasses cookies.
Bill Massoth, 80, knows for certain how his recipe came into the family. His grandfather, Lewis Massoth, picked hops in Mineral Springs when he was a young man. While away from home, he boarded with Mrs. Lester Franz and she would make this Indian pudding for her boarders.
Massoth said his grandfather liked it so much, he brought it home.
“I grew up with it. This recipe was made often,” he said. Massoth likes that this Indian pudding doesn’t have molasses in it. “That’s unusual for Indian pudding, he said, adding, “I still consider this recipe the best Indian pudding I ever had.”
Lori Liebert, 56, from Burnt Hills, e-mailed me with a cake recipe and a memory of her ancestors preparing meals in the kitchen.
From one side of the family, Liebert has a large metal cooking spoon that has been passed down “from my grandmother to my mom to me. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas when gravies are to be made out comes the spoon. It rattles around in the drawer for most of the rest of the year,” she said.
The spoon was one of the utensils used in her grandparents’ bakery in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 1930s “when my Mom was a child. Every time I get it out, it evokes the memories of my grandparents,” she said. Liebert has fond memories of cakes, pies and cookies being prepared for the holidays.
The recipe she shared is a yeast cake that the women in her father’s family have made for at least 100 years. The original recipe was carried by her ancestors through Ellis Island when they arrived in 1910 from Austria.
Her 86-year-old aunt, Mil Gordon, has been the keeper of the recipe and has recently passed it along to her granddaughters, who are in their 20s and 30s.
And here are the recipes!
Norman Collin’s Grandmother’s Molasses Cookies
1⁄2 cup sugar
Shortening the size of an egg
1 cup molasses
1 or 2 eggs
1 1⁄2 cups sour milk
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1⁄2 teaspoons nutmeg
3 cups flour
1⁄2 cup raisins (optional)
Mix sugar, shortening, molasses and eggs thoroughly. Stir in milk.
Blend remaining ingredients together. Raisins can be added.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 8 to 10 minutes.
Bill Massoth’s family Indian Pudding
1 quart milk, scalded
1⁄2 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scald milk and dampen cornmeal with a little water. Add cornmeal to milk and boil 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool while blending remaining ingredients together in a bowl. While beating, add warm corn meal and milk. Add raisins. Pour mix into greased 3 quart baking pan and bake 45 minutes.
Lori Liebert’s Holiday Cake
3⁄4 cup whole milk
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar
5 1⁄2 cups all purpose white flour
2 packages rapid rise yeast
1 egg yolk (save egg white)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 sticks melted butter for brushing and coating
3⁄4 pounds ground walnuts
1⁄2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon cloves (optional)
Combine milk, butter, salt and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts at a temperature not higher than 110 degrees as tested on a thermometer.
Place 4 cups flour and yeast into dough maker container. Slowly add the ingredients from the saucepan while the mixer is blending. Add 2 eggs and 1 yolk plus the vanilla. Once combined, add 1⁄4 cup of flour until the dough comes away from the side of the container. You may not need all the flour.
When dough has formed a ball, place it in a butter coated crockery bowl. Brush with melted butter. Place wax paper and 2 clean kitchen towels on top. Let it raise in a warm place until it is at least doubled in bulk, approximately 1 hour.
Tip dough onto floured board.
Score dough in fourths. Turn 1⁄4 of the dough in floured hands until the top of the dough is smooth. Place smooth side down and roll dough out in the shape of a circle about 1⁄4 inch thick. Brush rolled dough with butter.
Combine ingredients for walnut filling. Place 3⁄4 cup walnut filling on dough. Sprinkle with melted butter to hold in place. Tap down with hand. Roll to a log-shaped loaf.
Place in buttered oblong pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Brush between each loaf with melted butter. Place dough to raise for about 30 minutes. Brush loaves with beaten egg white on top before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully separate loaves and continue cooling on racks. Before serving sprinkle loaves with powdered sugar.