Monday, November 28, 2011
The Smells of Christmas
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.