Friday, 23 December 2011

the purge before Christmas (and jam-jams!)

Today I went around my house, throwing out sugar. It feels like the day before Lent instead of the days before Christmas. I recall feeling this way every year around this time - even before the big day (25th) rolls around, I'm all sugared-out. I declared a free-for-all on the gingerbread house, just because I'm sick of looking at it every day. I can feel the cavities growing in my teeth by the minute. Visions of fruit and vegetables and plain old water are dancing in my head.

I was out looking for a candy cane - to fulfill my daughter's wish. Do you know how hard it was to find a plain old candy cane? I couldn't believe it. I finally found one - but not just one, a whole box of cherry flavoured ones. They'll have to do.

But there are many sweets I look forward to. And none of them have raisins or dried fruit of any kind or marishino cherries in them. That's just how picky I am.

My favourite cookie that my Grandma Horst used to make every year are Jam-Jams. I made these last night with my daughter. Just the smell and taste of the dough brings back memories - so much that I had tears in my eyes, missing my grandma. I love traditional foods like this that link us to people and the past. Here's a plate of goodies that represents our household right now: some jam-jams (from my Swiss Mennonite background), some pfeffernusse (from Derek's Russian Mennonite background), and some Afghan baklava (from Shegofa's Afghan background). There we are - right on a dinner plate. And our young daughters get to share them all.

I'm going to share my jam-jam recipe with you - I'm sure you have nothing else to do today except make some more Christmas cookies - you probably don't have enough sugar in the house right now either. I'm sharing it because I don't know how many years in a row I've had to call my mom for this recipe. I seem to misplace it after every Christmas. If I record it here, I'll know where it is for next year (hopefully).

Jam Jams

1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature (or, if you dare, substitute that shortening and butter with a cup of lard)
1 cup brown sugar
6 T molasses
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking soda
raspberry jam or apple butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Blend butter, shortening, and sugars. Add molasses, vanilla and eggs and blend well.
3. Add flours sifted with baking soda and mix.
4. Roll out the dough and cut into shapes. (my favourite shape is the sun-type one) Use a thimble to make holes in half of the cookies (those will be the tops of the cookie sandwiches).
5. Bake on greased baking sheet for about 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them - they can overbake very easily!
6. While they're warm, sandwich them together with jam or apple butter. They are soft and keep well.

[adapted from Edna Staebler's Food that Really Schmecks]

What are your favourite treats this time of year? 

Do you have traditional foods that you look forward to? 


  1. oh, laughing as i read your post!!!
    thank you so much for sharing your jam-jams recipe. i'm afraid they won't get made today...but i will try your recipe in the new year! i love how connected you feel to your grandmother via these cookies. it makes it extra lovely that you're sharing it with us all.

    favorite treats? ooh, so many! high on the list are chewy chocolate ginger cookies (we baked/ate some this morning...), triple peppermint bark, and cutouts (a recipe shared by a dear friend, passed on from her grandmother).

  2. yum... what are cutouts? Sugar cookies? And TRIPLE peppermint bark? Sounds decadent! hope you had a lovely Christmas, Michelle.