Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and all your kin!

No, I don't use the word "kin" in casual conversation but the song "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" does...and it also mentions figgy recipe I don't have!

Today's recipe is a tried-and-true and it's one of the few I remember actually making along side Grandma, but for Halloween. I recall Grandma making her famous Popcorn Ball recipe twice a year -- Halloween and Christmas. When she lived in her mid century modern house, it was on a secluded street with very few trick-or-treaters so she would make the homemade popcorn balls, much to my dismay.

"But they are not store-bought!" I would exclaim -- at the dawn of the if-its-store-bought-it-must-be-safe era in the mid 1980s. But Grandma would just nod and smile and say that everyone on the block knew her and it was all right -- said in the same way she would bid at the local auction barn -- an all-knowing look and a nod.

The popcorn balls were placed precisely in a mahogany wood bowl by the front door each year for any neighborhood kids who would happen by. At Christmas that same bowl usually held Overnight Salad and I am pleased to have that bowl in my possession now. Though I did not get around to making them this year here is the newer, more modern version of Popcorn Balls courtesy of my Aunt Sue.

Grandma's Popcorn Balls -- Modern Version

3 bags of "natural" microwave popcorn (buttered versions won't work)
1 stick butter
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 T apple cider vinegar

Pop corn and remove all virgins, up-popped kernels, divide between two 13x9 pans

Bring the other ingredients to a boil, once it begins to boil do not stir.  Let it boil at medium high heat for exactly 10 minutes.

Pour syrup over the two pans of popcorn and stir rapidly to coat the popcorn.  Form balls quickly.   This process is best done with two people, one stirring, while the other begins forming the balls.  Only a couple of minutes before the syrup sets up and the ball won't hold together.  Work very quickly.  Makes 12-14 large popcorn balls.


Merry Christmas all!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Cheer

'Tis the Season to Be Jolly....





Hello again Loyal Readers....It's been many weeks since my last blog post....not very Mid-Century Modern of me. By December 15 Grandma would have gifts for 20 purchased, wrapped and ready along with batches of cookies, divinity, and popcorn balls. She would have also been to cookie exchanges, holiday parties, church events, and then by Christmas Day she worked her magic celebrating with the family. Whew!

Today's 2000s woman (I need to coin a cool name....I am open to suggestions) has a bit of a different approach. Eliminate & Delegate. That's what my busy friends do and it works for them. Every year I say that I will Eliminate (never happens) and Delegate (I am warming to the idea) but it just doesn't seem like Christmas without certain tangibles. After all, in the 1950s it was up to the Woman of the House to create the Christmas magic and that, dear readers, is essentially still true today.

Like your family, Christmas with the Nebergalls always had certain Christmas culinary mainstays and I'd love to share ours with you today. I actually don't have the time to make the recipes today (Eliminate) but I'd love to encourage you all to try them (Delegate)....whew! That was easier to do than I thought! And I don't have a functioning candy thermometer right now and it's unseasonable warm and humid today (I have no moniker to insert here, just TWO excuses!)

Divinity Candy
This recipe is Nebergall lore. It's as special to our family as the secret recipe for KFC's secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. The only difference is that we are willing to share the secret with anyone. Just don't make this on a humid day. It may not set. 

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites, beaten to a froth

Cook the sugar, syrup, and water till it hard-balls in cold water then pour over the beaten eggs

This is the recipe exactly as written. You may want to google it for more info and specifics. 
This page of the notebook is splattered, torn and well-used... the most-used page in the book! 

Divinity was one of Grandma's trademarks. In college I once remarked to a friend that my Grandmother's divinity was the best in the world he requested it specifically for a music-school reception. Even though it was October, Grandma happily obliged. Grandma also once told me that if the phone ever rang while she was making the recipe she would promptly say to the bewildered caller, "I am making divinity and I must hang up."

Cinnamon Apple Salad

Some version of these apples appeared each Christmas -- I remember the apples both whole and in slices, though Grandma made the filling with cream cheese instead of cottage cheese and omitted the celery. The cinnamon candies are Red Hots and each year there was a discussion as to what store was still carrying them that year. Both recipes appear. Since the recipe had three entries in the notebook, I included them all here. 

6 apples
1/2 c cinnamon candies
 2 c. water
Red vegetable coloring (if desired)
1/4 c nuts
1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 c cottage cheese
Lettuce or endive

Peel and core apples leaving large opening. Combine candies and water. Bring to boiling point. Drop in apples and simmer just until tender. Remove and chill. Combine nuts, celery, and cottage cheese and moisten with mayonnaise. Fill center openings of apple and place on lettuce leaves or endive. Serves 6.

Cinnamon Apple Rings

1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup red candies
4 apples -- peeled and cut into rings
1 t red coloring

Cinnamon-Apple Salad -- Better Homes and Gardens, November 1951

6 apples
1/2 cup red cinnamon candies
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons broken nuts
10 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/4 cup salad dressing

Pare and core the apples. Cook candies and sugar in water until dissolved; add whole apples and cook slowly until just tender. Drain. Chill. Stuff centers with combined remaining ingredients. Serve on lettuce or garnish with watercress. Serves 6

Next week: More holiday favorites! Stay tuned!