Holiday Traditions

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I usually write articles that focus on some aspect of healthy living or specific food item, but with the holidays approaching, I want to write about something that is very important to me personally. I come from a very large extended family where traditions are very important. Our matriarch, my Granny, has instilled in all of us a great need to stay close-knit. We get together for all of the major holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. That doesn’t seem like a big task, except for the fact that there are over 74 members of our “immediate family”.

One of my very favorite traditions is making apple jacks with Granny and a handful of other family members the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas. We meet at Granny’s house in the morning and prepare everything for our day’s work. We gather around the kitchen table where Granny and her mother made apple jacks for many years before. Everyone knows their job and they begin setting all of the ingredients out in front of their work stations. My job is to make the dough and roll out the jacks. I start by mixing the flour, buttermilk, and shortening in an old, well-worn yellow bowl. Granny is close by and keeps an eye on the process. She can tell, just by the way the dough feels, when it’s ready. I pinch off a small piece of the dough and roll it into a ball. Then I press the fresh dough onto the table and take a small wooden rolling pin to flatten it out. The rustic circles are passed on to the next person in line where they will be placed on small glass bread plates. They are filled with the cooled apple filling and then folded over. Once folded, each apple jack is crimped with a silver fork before heading to the last station. The final step in the process is putting the jacks into an old electric frying pan. There they are carefully tended and turned until they are the perfect golden brown. Once the cooking is complete, the jacks are placed on an antique silver tray that has been lined with copious amounts of paper towels to soak up any of the cooking grease. Tradition dictates Granny gets to have the first apple jack. It’s a sign of respect and, if Granny doesn’t like it, no one else will. Throughout the morning, we joke and tell stories and just enjoy spending time together. All of our family knows the tradition of cooking jacks the day before the holiday, so it’s not uncommon for someone to just pop in and try a “sample”. By the time we are finished cooking, we have 2 platters full of delicious apple jacks.

To some people, this may seem like a lot of work, but it to me it’s such a magical time. I get to spend time with Granny doing something so very special. In more recent years, we have included a few members of the younger generations, so that this tradition can continue with them.

This holiday season, I hope that you will share traditions with your family or start a new tradition. When you look back on the times you spend together, you will realize they were some of the best times of your life.

For more information or recipes to start your own traditions with family, contact Jean Brownfield at (252)789-4370.