Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
Christmas Sweet Treats
In the times before everything became literally sugar coated, sweets were a real treat. There was not a bowl of sugar on the table at every meal. Sugar was very expensive and used sparingly.
Folks who lived close to the woods could find bee trees and get honey. Others got their sweet from sorghum syrup made from the sorghum grass. Most of the sugar that we know today is made from sugar cane. Until the sugar industry came into being, cane sugar was rare.
Christmas was the time of the year to do a little something extra in way of celebrating the event. Sweets were on the menu. The "sugar plums" in the poem were probably originally made with plums, but now they are a variety of fruit-nut cookies that go by that name.
My mother's specialty was homemade custard pies. They came in two flavors, chocolate and lemon. For a really special occasion, Mama would make a mincemeat pie. Other family members had their own specialties. My cousin Winona made a wonderful chocolate cake. My cousin's Grandmother Kuhl made the Rice Krispy treats which were and are still my favorites. Let's get a few recipes and sweeten the holiday pot.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Custard Pie
Combine milk and egg yolks, beat with a wire whisk 1 to 2 minutes or until frothy. Gradually stir into sugar mixture, mixing well. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla, mixing well. Pour into baked pie shell, top with meringue and brown in oven.
These are best served a little on the warm side.
Mama's Mincemeat PiePurchase two bottles of Nonesuch mincemeat and follow instructions on the bottle.
If you are in Texas. you have to have a pecan pie for any special occasion. These are not that hard to make and can be served warm or cold. Warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream is best.
Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie
Mix in 1 cup of the pecans. Pour into crust. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.
Bake pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool on rack. [Note: Check the pie after about 50 minutes -- you don't want to scorch it.]
As far as I am concerned, there is only one cake you need for the holiday season. This recipe was adapted from a prune cake recipe that was in my mama's cookbook.
Holiday Spice Cake
The holidays always call for a supply of cookies. You know, of course, that Santa always expects cookies and a glass of milk when he makes his visit. Here is a recipe that should keep the jolly old fat man jolly.
M & M Cookies
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375F degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. [Note: You can get the candies in just red and green, but I think the regular color assortment looks better. Also you can use the regular candies or the small ones made especially for baking.]
Christmas just would not be Christmas without candy. Traditional Christmas candy is hard candy like the candy canes or the peppermint drops. You can make hard candy at home, but it requires a lot of planning and effort. We are going to go with the favorite of all us Texans, Pecan Pralines. Pralines are the dessert of choice after a Tex-Mex meal, but they are mighty good just alone and at anytime.
When pralines are cool and hard, peel foil from back and wrap each praline in a square of plastic wrap.
[Note: Soft ball stage equals 235F to 240F degrees on a candy thermometer. The mix will form a soft ball when a bit is dropped into cold water. Get a candy thermometer if you don't have one.]
And finally, I said it was my favorite:
Rice Krispies Treats
Fold in Rice Krispies cereal, and stir until well coated.
Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into a 9x13-inch pan coated with butter or cooking spray. Cut into 2-inch squares when cool. Best if served the same day. Makes 24 squares.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
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