Monday, November 28, 2011

The Smells of Christmas

We have many traditions in our family at Christmas. When I was a little girl, baking started the day after Thanksgiving. My mom baked dozens and dozens of different kind of cookies, Spritz, sugar cookies, frosted cookies, cookies with sprinkles, not to mention bakery - poppy seed and nut rolls and other delicious yeast doughs.
Oh yeah, the house smelled delicious. Back then, people visited more often during the holidays. Not a weekend went by without company, usually Friday, Saturday & Sunday. The week between Christmas and New Years was the same. Every night, we either went visiting or we had guests. Hence the need for bakery. Back then many of us didn't have a television and even when we did, it wasn't the center of our lives.
I still do a lot of baking, but not near as much as my mom.
For us, the day after Thanksgiving was spent putting up the Christmas tree - something my mom did on Dec. 6th - the feast of St. Nicholas. Of course back then we had real trees. Once we went the way of the modern world with artificial, we could put them up much earlier and we did. (Including my mom)
We also had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, which I still make - but not on Christmas Eve any more. Mos of my children visit with their in-laws on Christmas Eve, so we decide last year to do it a week earlier. That way everyone gets to enjoy it.
This meal takes some advance preparation - for one thing, we make homemade peroghi - that's an all day job and involves me and my three daughters. We make potato peroghi and sauerkraut peroghi. Since we're getting together Sunday to make these, I browned the sauerkraut with butter and onion today. The very aroma makes my mouth water. As if that wasn't enough, I also boiled the mushrooms we use for our soup.  Although this isn't necessary to do so far ahead of time, it's something we do when we find the mushrooms on sale. Strange combination of smells you think.
Let me tell you a little about our meal. We start it off with Oplatkay - paper thin wafer similar to Communion wafer with honey on top. This is a breaking bread type tradition. Next we serve mushroom soup. Mushrooms and potatoes mixed with a little bit of vinegar and browned butter and flower to thicken it slightly (I think it's more for flavor than thickening because nothing about the soup is thick). It's a sour soup and we serve either Mogan David or  Manischewitz Concord grape wine, which is very sweet and a great compliment.  The next course is babalki - little balls of bread that are steamed, drained, mixed with butter and either sauerkraut (browned in butter) or ground poppy seed with sugar and honey and of course the peroghi.  Needless to say with all those carbs, it's a filling meal. But the smells that emanate from the kitchen are heavenly. My mouth is watering as I write this. I can hardly wait until the 17th to partake of this delicious meal. Thankfully, my sons and daughters in law love this meal also, as do my grandchildren.
Ah yes, the smells of Christmas make my mouth water.

14 comments:

Roseanne Dowell said...

Maybe tomorrow I'll start baking cookies

gail roughton branan said...

Oh, Lord, girl! Can I come to your house for your Christmas Eve dinner a week early?

Karen Cote said...

I love Christmas Ro. Makes me wish I could spend that time with you as well. I bet it would be a blast. Love you dear friend. Thanks for sharing these wonderful times. We have our tree out but haven't decorated it yet. We watch Christmas Classics and hubby bakes his famous sugar cookies while I select the decorations for the tree. We then eat cookies and drink hot chocolate during breaks.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Sure, Gail, come on up!

Roseanne Dowell said...

Karen, that sounds wonderful. My hubby just watches me put up the tree. When we had a real one, he would put it in the stand, put the lights on and then it was up to me.

J Q Rose said...

What an adventure in eating. I've only heard of peroghis (sp?). My mouth is watering now too. You'd better set some extra places for all the Musers who will show up at your door on Dec. 17. It was fun being home to MI for Thanksgiving. We saw a LOT of Christmas lights on display and fresh wreaths. So much prettier than FL palm trees wrapped with lights and viewing them in shirt sleeves.!!

lionmother said...

Ro, being Jewish my holiday smells are a little different. For Channukah my mother made homemade latkes. She would have me peel the potatoes and then she grated them on one of those steel graters with onions. Then she added eggs and flour and mixed it all together. Then she made patties out of these and fried them in very hot oil until they were crisp and golden on both sides. The smell is unbelievable. Also she made gefilte fish, which wasn't so wonderful to smell. She would boil the fish including the heads and make sure it was cooked. Then she strained it and threw out the head. When my father was alive he loved eating this. With the fish she boiled carrots. Then my mother separated the fish from the bones and put it through a food grinder with the cooked carrots and she made patties out of it. She took the strained broth or she used boiling water and boiled the patties until they rose to the top of the pot. Then she took them and poured the strained liquid over them and put them in the refrigerator. The liquid turned to jelly. Then we ate them with horseradish.

I think the best smell of Christmas is the evergreens from a real tree or a wreath. I love when they're selling trees on the street.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Barbara, I love latkes (potato pancakes) My mom made them often. I've made them a few times, but it seemed like the kids ate them as fast or faster than I made them. I've not made them for a long time.

Tanja said...

I hear you are doing deliveries this year... Mmmm smalls good. Our Christmas smells here are totally different - it;s usually capon broth, baked macaroni in a pasta shell, and then the fowl with baked potaties (cut into roundsand sprinkled with fennel seeds and baked until the top is crunchy but the bottom still soft) and other vegetables...

lionmother said...

Roseanne, I used to go into my kids' classes and make them for the class. They loved them! Once my daughter, though much older, needed them for an international buffet at work. So we made them in the morning. I was working as an insurance agent then and I had to go to work right after without taking a shower. When I got to work my boss said I smelled like fried food. Little did he know! We had made 3 dozen latkes that morning!!!

Tanja, your country is so fascinating. I have to go there someday!!

Tanja said...

We have no place to put mountains and rivers and forests - so we try to make up for that (not that we miss them, but anyway) in other ways. Having a lot of sun and very little rain makes for really ugly -but utterly elicious - fruits and vegtables. The ones grown nowadays in hothouses are definitely not the same as the ones of my youth.

Susanne Drazic said...

What wonderful holiday traditions for your family. The food all sounds wonderful.

Fairday Morrow said...

I love that you have kept your family traditions, but altered them to fit the lives of your family members! I put my tree up the day after Thanksgiving and my mom made wayyyyyy more cookies than I do! Your Christmas meal sounds just like dinner at my boyfriend's family's house. They are Polish and we basically eat everything you mentioned- except for the wine! I have never heard of the wine you mentioned. I am looking forward to having homemade perogis soon! Have a wonderful and delicious holiday.

~Jess
http://thesecrestdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com

Roseanne Dowell said...

Fairday, thank you for commenting. We're Slovak and we probably have the same things for Easter that you have. I hope you enjoy your holidays and the food.