Memories and traditions bring the best recipes to life
The holidays are a time to gather with loved ones from near and far, feasting on treats that are often reserved for these rare moments. We sprinkle these dishes with festivity, meaning and memories, as we join our tables together each year. From Hoppin’ John to cheese blintzes to honey and clove baked ham, our days and dishes are filled with cultures from around the globe and traditions handed down from generation to generation.
From Marketing to Farmers, we wish you and yours a happy, healthy celebration and offer our own treats that have been handed down to us through the generations. Please enjoy these recipes and a sweet taste of the holidays.
Paula’s Chocolate Fudge by Diane Martin
One of the holiday institutions at the Peters family farm was candy and confection making. Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mom – with help from my sister and me – made candies and confections that she then packaged and gave as gifts to nearly everyone who supported the farm and our family throughout the year. The list was long and included, to name a few, farm landlords, great aunts and uncles, the banker, the mailman, our piano teacher, the John Deere dealer, the propane delivery man, the veterinarian, our school and Sunday School teachers (one each for each of us four kids), the church minister and even our doctor and dentist. No one was left off the list.
We all looked forward to the candy making ritual – it was the official start to winter holidays on the Peters family farm. There was a sequence in which Mom made the candy, and in which my dad pilfered tastes. Mom would start with everyone’s favorite, Paula’s Chocolate Fudge, and when the mixer fired up for the Divinity (yuck!), we knew it was the last batch for the season. I’m sharing my mom’s fudge recipe because of all 15-20 candy recipes that she handed down to my sister and me, this is the favorite in my home and the one I am certain to make every year. It’s easy, the sugar never crystallizes and it tastes soooo goooood.
I also share this recipe because there is a life and business lesson in the gifts of the candy that the Peters family spent the last two weeks of the year distributing to all who impacted the farm and family. It’s one that I was so pleased to see perpetuated more than 30 years ago when I joined Rhea + Kaiser: Gratitude and appreciation for those who help you in your operation and life. So, specifically to those who are regular readers of Marketing to Farmers, thank you for following us on Marketing to Farmers and happy holidays to you, your colleagues and your families.
And no matter what the official kickoff for your holiday season is – whether cutting down a tree, lighting a Menorah or making pounds-and-pounds of candy and confections – we urge you to use that moment to share the gifts of gratitude and appreciation with the farmers to whom you market and all those who have supported you, your businesses and your families.
Paula’s Chocolate Fudge
(Makes approximately 5 lbs. Store covered in cool, dry space)
½ C butter (1 stick)
1 can evaporated milk (14-1/2 oz)
4 C white, granulated sugar
1 pkg miniature marshmallows (10-2/3 oz)
2 oz unsweetened (or bittersweet) chocolate
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz sweet milk (or Baker’s German Chocolate)
1 T Vanilla
1 C chopped walnuts (optional)
- Generously grease (I use butter) a jelly roll pan (approx. 10”x15”) and set aside.
- Combine butter, milk and sugar in large, heavy saucepan or 4-quart Dutch Oven. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Heat to boiling, cover and boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat.
- Stir in marshmallows until dissolved.
- Add and stir in one kind of chocolate at a time, stirring until each is dissolved before adding the next.
- When all chocolate is added and blended well, stir in vanilla and nuts (optional).
- Pour into pan.
- Cut in bite-size squares after fudge has cooled and is firm.
Giant Gingersnap Cookies by Jeff Walter
My mom has always been a great cook, but she likes to cook more than she likes to bake. As a child, I would watch her work away in the kitchen for hours to make sure there was a scratch-made, delicious dinner on the table at the stroke of 5:30 for our entire family to enjoy together. A sit down, family dinner was a requirement in the Walter household, no exceptions. And during planting and harvest seasons, she still sets an early alarm so she can make sure she is ready to bring a warm, hearty lunch to the field for all of our farm workers.
And while I grew up enjoying my mom’s delicious homemade meals for us every single day, fresh-baked goods were less common. My brothers and I always had home-baked birthday cakes, the occasional pineapple upside-down cake or her classic chocolate chip cookies (with a sprinkle of sea salt on top, of course). But our entire family would spend the year looking forward to the holidays, when my mom would make her magical, giant gingersnap cookies. They were the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, with a soft, chewy texture complemented by the crunch of giant sugar crystals on top. The entire house would smell like Christmas for days after she baked a batch and cooled them on her wire racks. If Christmas could have just one smell or taste, these gingersnaps would be it. Over the years, I had become trained, I suppose, like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It’s just not Christmas without these cookies.
A little more than 40 years later, I have come to fully realize the cyclical nature of our lives. I love to cook homemade meals for my family, and our evening dinners around the table as a family are non-negotiable. It’s when we reconnect as a family, share the events of our day and celebrate our accomplishments.
But as much as I love to cook, I am not a baker. Thankfully, my wife is. Maria enjoys the precision and detailed process that I detest in baking. And even better, my mother shared her Giant Gingersnap Recipe with Maria when we got married 15 years ago, so our house could carry on the tradition.
The weekend before Christmas, Maria will ask Alexa to play some Christmas music, she’ll fire up her KitchenAid mixer and pull up the recipe on her iPad. The process may be a little different than my mom’s handwritten recipe card from the rolodex, the Bing Crosby vinyl spinning on the hi-fi or the sore arms from working the dough, but one cannot argue with the end product. The house still lights up with all things Christmas between the music, the smell and that perfect balance of sweet and spice. Christmas will have arrived at the Walter house again.
Giant Gingersnap Cookies
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup molasses
¾ cup coarse sugar
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Gradually add the 2 cups granulated sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour mixture.
Shape dough into 2-inch balls using 1/4 cup dough. Roll balls in the 3/4 cup coarse or granulated sugar. Place about 2 ½ inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 12 – 14 minutes or until cookies are light brown and puffed. (Do not overbake or cookies will not be chewy.) Cool on the cookie sheet for 4 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool fully. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 25 4-inch cookies.
Independent Consultant. Before starting her freelance career, Diane worked at Rhea + Kaiser for more than 25 years. During her tenure she put her strong critical thinking and creative problem solving skills to work across a variety of clients.