For years upon years I remember my Grandmother making Lebkuchen Christmas cookies. They have a ‘unique’ spicy taste that I now associate with Christmas. After Gram got too old, Mom picked up the task. Then when Mom gave it up, the duty somehow fell to me to make them. I actually enjoy making them – and so continuing the tradition…
I began ‘building’ them in 1998. Mom told me that they are so much better if they sit for about two weeks – to ‘soak up’ the spice flavors. So, I typically set aside a Sunday in early December for baking. Green Bay playing in the background seems to help the time pass! This is Gram’s recipe:
1Lb. Light Brown Sugar
1Pt. Light Karo Syrup
1 1/2 Tsp Vinegar
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda dissolved in a small amount of hot water (about 1/3 Cup).
Mix all above ingredients with mixer.
Add 1 Cup of chopped nuts (I use walnuts).
Add heaps of flour until very stiff. I usually stir until the tears begin to flow freely from my eyes…
(Before I begin the actual baking, I like to take a handful of flour and just heave it throughout the kitchen. That seems to relieve any anxiety I might have about making a mess…)
I begin adding flour in the mixer, then when it gets rather thick, I continue ‘by hand.’ Plan to use about 5 cups or so…
Roll out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter. Then bake on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes. When I take them out of the oven, I allow them to cool for about 8 – 10 minutes on the cookie sheet.
For the frosting:
6 Tbsp of Butter
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 Cups of Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup of Milk
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
In a small mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add about 1/2 of the powdered sugar, beating well. Then add the milk and vanilla. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar (adding a bit more milk if necessary.) It will usually take about 3-4 batches to frost all the cookies. Top the cookies with a walnut half before the frosting sets.
When the frosting is set, place the cookies in Christmas tins, with wax paper between layers. Then add 1 slice of white bread before closing.
I will usually hold on to them for a week or so before handing them out. I have found most folks can’t wait the two weeks for them to age! LOL!
The first year I made them I took a few up to Beth at the Post Office. I have known Beth since we were kids. Beth was kinda busy that day, but she took time to open the tin. She looked at the cookies, then her eyes lit up. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed, “Gramma Holliker’s Christmas cookies!”
My eyes immediately flooded with tears as we stood there…
This year I began building them on 8 Dec. at 0615, and I finished at 1745 or so. Now I didn’t spent the entire 12 hours building cookies – I took a couple-3 “union breaks.” And this year I made 3 batches, yielding 200 cookies!
One of the things that I wondered about this year was, who will make them after I ‘mort out?’ Or will this ‘tradition’ die with me? Who knows…