Thursday, December 10, 2015

My Favorite Time of Year

Christmas is my favorite holiday. If you follow my blog, you probably know that by now. I can't help it, I love it. I love the season. The Lights. The Tree. The Hustle and Bustle. Shopping. Yep, I love everything about it.
This year is special to me. I'm hosting Christmas dinner here in my house. It's been years since I've had Christmas. The kids took it over many years ago when we moved. An apartment is hardly large enough to hold my big family and it's growing by leaps and bounds as grandkids get married or have girl friends or boy friends. This year my adult shopping list went from ten couples to fourteen couples, leaving only  six younger ones to buy gifts for.
So, not only do I get to host Christmas this year, I'm also hosting our annual traditional Christmas Eve dinner, which I host every year. I no longer do it on Christmas Eve for a variety of reasons - 1. Everyone can't come Christmas Eve 2. Some people work Christmas Eve. 3. I celebrate Christmas with my siblings on Christmas Eve, leaving no time to have the dinner.
So, we do it a week before, which gives us another day to celebrate. It's also fun because there's no hustle and bustle of opening gifts. We have a leisurely dinner and fellowship.
The past couple of years, my sons and sons in law made the pyrohy (perogi) for this dinner. If you've ever made p, you know it's a lot of work. Not difficult to do, but time consuming. However, my sons and sons in law think it's fun and a big joke to make the pyrohy darn near the size of footballs. One pyrohy would suffice for three normal size ones.
Not that they weren't good because they were excellent. But I much prefer the smaller, traditional ones. That being said, isn't the reason I decided to make them myself this year. The real reason is I've turned into a couch potato and I needed something to do. One batch of pyrohy takes a good part of the day to make if you're doing them alone. So needless to say, I've spent many days making them. I actually had them done, but someone turned off my freezer and 4 dozen potato pyrohy had to be tossed.
Praise God, other than a couple packages of fish (that my hubby didn't like anyway) nothing else had to be tossed. I probably could have used the fish because they were still cold as if they were in a refrigerator. But I tossed them just to be on the safe side. The only reason I had to toss the potato pryohy  was they were all stuck together like a big pile of mush. So I had to remake those 4 dozen. All total I've made 14 dozen potato pyrohy and 6 dozen sauerkraut ones, but only reaping the benefit of 10 dozen potato ones. I'm debating if I need to make another batch of potato ones, but I really think I have enough. It's not the only thing we're eating. We're also having our traditional mushroom soup and balbaki (little dough balls with either poppy seed or sauerkraut).  A very filling meal. Some of us will fill up on soup.
I just chopped 10 packages of mushrooms and froze them for the soup. One of the things I love about this meal is everything can be made ahead and frozen. Of course, there's a lot of last minute preparation also. The pyrohy have to be boiled and fried with onions, the soup has to be made with potatoes and zaprashka  (a thickening made with butter and flour and browned to the color and consistency of peanut butter some people call it a rue).  The balbaki have to be steamed and then mixed with butter, poppy seed, honey & sugar, or butter and sauerkraut. If you over steam them they turn to mush. You bring a big pot of water to a boil and throw the dough balls in. Pretty much you push them down to make sure they're all in the water and then you drain them immediately.
I still have to make the balbaki. Usually I'd make them by now, but my freezer doesn't have room for them, so I'll wait until next week to make them. I think I'll have to make 3 batches of 6 cups of flour  each or maybe 2 and half - one batch being 9 cups of flour.
Needless to say all this prepartion and cooking has kept me extremely busy, but it's also brought back memories also. Memories of my early years and my mom baking and preparing for this special meal. Memories of my the years when I first started preparing it for my own family.
It was always a family affair. I remember so well helping my mom make the balls. She made the dough and after it rose, she'd take a section and roll it between her hands like a long skinny snake. Then she'd cut them into bite-size pieces and we'd roll them into balls and put them in the pan. After they baked, she turned them out onto a clean sheet on the dining room table. We'd take turns taking the pan and emptying it. Of course, we always grabbed a couple to eat. Nothing better than warm bread straight from the oven. We listened to Christmas music and sang as we baked. It was a fun time. However, if you dropped three of the balls while you were shaping them, you were out. I think my brothers always dropped three on purpose.
Back then my uncle, aunt, and cousins came to Christmas Eve dinner and then we went to visit my grandparents. Christmas Day we always spent with my uncle, aunt and cousins. Yes, the same ones from the night before. We followed the same tradition for years. Until two of my brothers and sisters married. Then we didn't have dinner with my uncle any more. For several years we had dinner with my parents, but it got to be too much for them. My sisters and I started preparing it for our own families and my parents usually had one of my brothers' families for dinner. After dinner, we gathered at either my house or one of my siblings to celebrate Christmas. Christmas day, we always went to my in-laws.
Now our parents are gone and we celebrate with our own families. My brothers, sister and I have carried on the tradition of getting together Christmas Eve. One brother and sister are gone now and we miss them dearly. Next year another of my brothers is bowing out as he has a place in Florida and will be celebrating Christmas there. It'll only be my younger sister and youngest brother (he's older than I am, but he's the youngest of the three boys). It won't quite be the same, but we'll continue the tradition for as long as we can.
It'll still be my favorite time of year.
To all of you, I wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas.

No comments: