It’s tradition: Memories abound when it comes to holiday food
Holiday food traditions come from many sources, parents, other family members, friends, old cookbooks from churches or clubs, the back of food packages and, of course, dear Betty Crocker and The Daily Sentinel.
I found my date bar recipe on the back of a Food Club Oatmeal box more than 30 years ago. It was a bit embarrassing when I received requests for “my” special recipe. I just omitted the sugar in the date spread and added lots of nuts.
My family’s favorite Christmas sugar cookie recipe came on a valentine with a cookie cutter given to our daughters — they were ages 4 and 6 at the time — from their Grandma Burmeister.
And it is not Christmas without my mother’s Refrigerator Date Pinwheel cookies, a recipe that came from a friend of a friend.
Memories abound when it comes to my grandma’s kitchen and her Christmas kolaches filled with cherries, poppy seeds, cottage cheese or apricot filling.
But two of my favorite food-related holiday traditions and stories are related to popcorn.
Years ago, when my husband Fred and I were a young couple, we lived in a small southern Minnesota town where Fred taught school. Young faculty families on tight budgets would load up their little ones and head to each other’s homes on cold winter evenings to play cards and other games.
One frigid December night, we were served what we considered to be the best caramel corn. Our hostess had made it, and I asked for the recipe. The hostess replied, “no, it’s an old family recipe we don’t give out!”
Fred said the look on my face was priceless. And so began my search for a similar recipe, but finding it took a move to Grand Junction.
Our first Christmas here, we were invited to dinner at the home of one of Fred’s coworkers. During dinner, conversation turned to holiday food traditions and my search for the famous caramel corn recipe.
Our host, John, brought out an old Bohemian cookbook published by a small Midwest church. It had lots of recipes for kolaches and other things AND, amazingly, the end of my caramel corn recipe search.
That first batch convinced me it was the “secret recipe,” now known as John’s caramel corn and a Burmeister holiday family tradition.
And guess what?
I’ll share it with you! Excuse my smugness.
The little recipe booklet John made for me is stained and falling apart, but I’ll never replace it.
Another of our favorite popcorn-related holiday recipes we discovered after moving into our first Grand Junction home and meeting our neighbors Bobbie and Tom.
Bobbie, through health circumstances had lost part of her arm just below her elbow. That never stopped her from doing everything.
She was my hero. Our first Christmas here, she made homemade popcorn balls. How did she do it one-handed?
The popcorn balls had to be formed quickly once the hot syrup was mixed with the corn. Her recipe (now ours, too) didn’t require handling burning-hot popcorn.
Our family makes these recipes only during the holidays, in the interest of waistlines.
We always think of John and Bobbie with fond smiles and memories. It’s a tradition.
JOHN’S CARAMEL CORN
10–12 cups popcorn
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
Cover a table with smoothed out foil with dull side up. Spray lightly with vegetable cooking spray. Place popped corn in an extra large bowl. (For big batches, I use the turkey roaster pan.)
Remove any unpopped kernels.
Mix sugar, corn syrup, hot water in heavy 2-quart pan (1 batch). Cook quickly to 260 degrees on candy thermometer. Turn heat to medium, and add butter, salt and molasses. Mix well, and cook to 260–270 degrees and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Drizzle over popcorn, quickly toss using two greased large serving forks or spoons.
Spread popcorn on foil. Once cool enough to handle, break it up in pieces.
Bobbie’s Never-Fail Popcorn Balls
18 or more cups popcorn
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons butter
Mix the Karo syrup, sugar and vinegar in saucepan. Place over medium heat, bring to boil and boil for 5 or so minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in baking soda, vanilla and butter. Pour over popcorn, tossing it until well mixed. Let set for a couple of minutes, then form balls.
We use about 18 or more cups popped corn, adding just enough syrup to form balls.
Cool, then wrap with waxed paper or plastic wrap.