Sweet Memories

Now that it’s December, I feel like I can begin thinking about Christmas. I hope to put my tree up this weekend, put candles in my windows and maybe consider some shopping.

I can’t think about Christmas, however, without thinking about my Grandma (Katherine) Roberts and my Mom. Grandma loved Christmas and everything about it. She loved shopping and giving gifts. The back bedroom of her home — now where my brother Sam and his family reside — would be filled with gifts. After Thanksgiving and sometimes before, the bedroom became off limits to us.

But Christmas was more than gifts to Grandma. She was the official candy maker for the holidays. She made peanut butter and chocolate fudge and divinity. It’s funny, but I don’t remember Grandma making Christmas cookies.

Remember the Hangar Bazaar? It was the original Christmas market in Paris. The bazaar offered homemade gifts, homemade candy and cookies, white elephant items and a luncheon. The Hangar was filled to the rafters with everything Christmas. Grandma made pounds of candy for the bazaar and there were always people in line waiting to purchase it when it opened.

One of her most requested items — her bourbon balls — could knock your socks off. She would make them and then store them in tins to let the flavors meld. After a couple of weeks if you took the top of one of the tins off, the aroma could bring tears to your eyes and knock you over.

After Grandma was gone, Mom took over the candy making. We’d always make Christmas cookies and ice them and Mom handled the fudge. When her own children were grown, it was the grandchildren who joined her in the kitchen to fill the Tupperware and tins with cookies and fudge. My brother, Mick, now makes fudge at Christmas. The only difference in his handy work is he doesn’t add nuts. Mom could never have enough nuts — pecans, peanuts you name it.

When Don and I were married and we operated Homefront — our home improvement radio and television show — we had anywhere from six to 10 full or part time employees. Most of them were younger, just out of college kids living on their own for the first time. We gave bonuses, of course, and had a Christmas dinner together but I always made trays of goodies for them. They were always a big hit.

In this day and age when we need kindness and caring, putting together trays of goodies is easy. I always purchased trays at Dollar Tree (coming soon to Paris) for $1, wrapped them in colorful Christmas plastic wrap, added a bow and voila!

The recipes I’m sharing today are ones that Grandma and Mom made over the years and a couple of others. When I moved to the South, I found another delicacy — Tiger Butter. I’d never heard of it before but give it a try. It will be your new favorite.

If you’ve never made fudge, don’t be afraid to try it. The recipe for Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge does not require a candy thermometer. Just follow the directions and time the fudge and it will come out perfectly.

The Prairie Press

101 Central Avenue Paris, IL 61944