by John Lindsay
It’s that time of year again – time for loved ones to get together and participate in old family traditions passed down through the generations. It’s also a time for making new traditions that will be passed down with the old ones. One of the oldest and most beloved traditions that my family has is getting together to make these raisin-filled Christmas cookies. It originated from my great, great grandmother in Livingston County, New York, around 1860 and has been a staple in our Christmas celebrations ever since. I’m sharing this cookie recipe with you to bring an old tradition to my new home here in Stillwater in the hopes that it will also become a new beloved holiday tradition for your family.
This is also a recipe that lends itself to being not just one chance to spend time together, but two. In the fall, my family would always get together on our farm to pick walnuts for the cookies just after our black walnut trees had dropped their fruit. Then we’d bring our buckets back to the farmhouse and crack them all with a contraption my uncle had put together to make the job a bit easier.
It’s a simple recipe that everyone can be involved with, from the grandkids to the grandparents, making it a great way to spend real, quality time with loved ones. I remember making these when I was a kid, usually the day after Thanksgiving, sitting around with my cousins. We would roll out the dough, stuff them with raisins and the black walnuts we had picked a month ago, and pinch them all together. Then we’d try to eat the whole first batch before they were cool, and we’d get a few burned tongues and a reprimand or two, but bellies full of warm, delicious cookies made it all worth it.
One quick note on this recipe – the creaming of ingredients is important. This refers to the mixing of the sugars and fats together. The fats (in this case, lard, which actually has less fat than butter) should be at room temperature when the mixing process begins. When they are properly mixed, you should be able to feel the sugar granules but not see them. You can then add the eggs to give you a creamy mixture. Lastly, adding in the dry ingredients slowly will give you a chewy, tender cookie that falls apart in your mouth, and they’ll last a lot longer than other cookies when properly stored.
Add 1 C water or (½ C water + ½ C rum) to 2 C raisins boil quietly 5 min, let cool
Cream 1 C lard, 2 C sugar, 3 beaten eggs,
Mix dry ingredients 4 cups AP flour1 tsp baking power, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda
Mix together then slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed (don’t dump it all in to avoid making a tough cookie)
Let the mix rest. Then roll and cut out 1 1/2” to 2” cut outs.
In a food processor or grinder (that’s how Grandma did it) add the raisins, 1 C of nuts (Walnuts are traditional as we would pick them in the fall, but pecans seem appropriate for Oklahoma) ¼ tsp allspice, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon.
Place a tsp of the raisin mixture on top of the cut out, then cover with a second cut out and pinch the edges.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 12 minutes, set on cooling racks and enjoy.