After a glorious long walk in the forest with my husband and two dogs this past weekend, I was ready to get down to some serious Christmas cooking.
Food traditions are the foundation for our family holidays, many “customs” handed down from my grandmother to my mother and her sisters. And then to me and my cousins.
My mother passed the torch for hosting the Holiday meal quite some time ago, when she wasn’t well.
Although slightly trepidatious, I was ready to step in. One of my greatest joys is seeing how much pleasure my mom now gets in having others do most of the cooking! I love how she putters about as we’re preparing the meal, offering quiet “suggestions” from the “back seat”.
In her day, her sisters all contributed to the meal and that’s still the general format but our families have all broken off into their various branches as there’s just too many of us for one house. So, it’s a smaller crew of anywhere from 8 to 14 immediate family, but it still works – even if we aren’t quite the cooks my mother, her sisters and my grandmother were! I often roast the turkey in the barbecue just to add my own “camp life” touch and because I love to be outside doing the cooking – yes, even in -35 C (wine in hand)!
While I like to add my own touch, there are some food traditions I don’t mess with. Today’s cooking was preparation of some of the fare that has always brought our family together – Piroshki, which are sauerkraut buns, and tacos.
I know…what does that kind of food have to do with Christmas?
It’s strange, nothing really, except both are gifts, wrapped in memories of the best of times when I was growing up.
The preparation of these foods alongside my mother, her sisters, my cousins, grandmother, and later my sister-in-law, nieces and both of my offspring, usually happened in the depths of winter before Christmas and always had the greatest ingredients – love, laughter and perhaps best of all, safety to make mistakes.
It’s this, more than anything I want to pass on to my children.
I’ve had the best role models. Carrying on these traditions is the least I can do.
Family will come together to break bread or should I say Piroshki and imbibe in a few tacos before the main event. It will be messy, casual, fun and likely filled with a few mishaps.
My grandmother would be proud. My mother will laugh through it all – a sound that is always music to my ears.
Following are my Piroshki and Taco recipes. Enjoy!
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Piroshki – Olga’s Recipe
This is a large recipe, making about 5 dozen buns, so adjust accordingly. They freeze well. Ingredients are all approximate in the way the recipe was given to me.
In a bowl – Dissolve 3 packages of yeast in 1 cup of warm water and 3 tsp. of sugar. Let rise for 20 minutes. (I have used quick rise yeast without all this fuss and it seems to work).
In a large mixing bowl add 1 cup oil, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup shortening or lard, 2 tsp. salt and 2 cups scalded milk. Pour this into yeast mixture.
Add 4 beaten eggs (each beaten separately).
Add flour to form a soft ball (about 8 cups or more, could be up to 10).
Let it rise in a warm place until double in size – about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Drain sauerkraut to get all water out; it’s really important that it is well-drained.
Fry meat (chopped bacon, ground pork, or beef) and onions, add sauerkraut, sauté together. I prefer bacon. Could also use pork tenderloin.
Need approximately 1 litre jar of sauerkraut and 1 pound of bacon.
Can also add garlic cloves or garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste and any spices you like. A wee bit of caraway seed is nice but completely optional.
Take dough size of a walnut in palm of hand, flatten it to look like a biscuit, add sauerkraut mixture and fold over into a ball.
Rise for about another hour, brush with beaten egg before baking.
Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Brush melted butter over buns and Enjoy!
As an extra decadent treat we sometimes melt a bowl of butter for dipping!
Famous Pine Falls Taco Recipe
My mother and her friends all learned the “Famous Pine Falls Taco Recipe” from a Mexican women who moved to our small town and it quickly became a sensation! This again is a large batch, about 4 dozen tacos depending how large you make the shells that freeze well. It’s a lot of work but worth it!
Serve up these dishes, made with love, for a casual pre-Christmas dinner or snack. Everyone will thank you!