Grandma Tilly’s Lebkuchen

When the fabulous Jennifer Hart (aka @bookclubgirl) invited me to contribute a post to her Holiday Open House at her blog, of course I said yes! I’m thrilled to announce that my post now live over at Book Club Girl, alongside loads of other author’s memories of Decembers past. (Kristina Riggle, John Grogan, Rachael Herron, Gregory Maguire, just to name a few…)

My contribution became a meditation of sorts – one where I remembered carols, cookies, Christmastime with my mother, and the way Mom embraced the season like no one else I’ve ever known.

Her Grandma Tilly’s lebkuchen was a centerpiece of the holidays and has been my favourite Christmas cookie for as long as I can remember. I mentioned mom’s recipe for Lebkuchen (and the daunting task of making the stuff) over at bookclubgirl, but felt it was far too long to include with the essay, so I’m giving it a post all it’s own here at Incidental Pieces.

Warning: This is an enormous recipe! (My greatgrandmother had six children and lots of relatives in Saline, Michigan, so it was made to feed them all.) Mom said she tried to cut it in half once, but with poor results. You can always freeze half the dough and save it for Valentines, or some newly pregnant woman suffering from morning sickness. (I lived on the stuff for the first trimester of both of my pregnancies.)

Here goes…straight from mom’s handwritten recipe.

Lebkuchen (as told by D.M.W.S. “Aunty Do”)

1lb. brown sugar
1 pt. molasses (or honey)
3/4 lb. butter (or lard or olio)
1 pt. sour milk (butter milk, or put a teaspoon of vinegar in milk)
1 1/2 Tablespoon soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 box raisins
1 lemon – juice and rind
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 4oz container of citron (and some lemon and orange rind is nice too)
1/2 lb. nuts (black and English walnuts) (I prefer pecans…)
9-11 cups flour

Bake in 325F oven for 10 min.

mix powdered sugar, a little lemon juice and water. Paint on cookie as soon as it is out of the oven.

(instead of instructions, the recipe has a list of eleven notes. Read them all through before you try making the cookies, since some are out of order. I didn’t have the heart to rearrange them. Mom simply wrote them down as they came to her.)

Mom’s Tips and Tricks

1. Measurements: “old addage – a pint is a pound the world around.” ie 1lb. brown sugar equals 2 cups, 2 cups = 1 pint.

2. When it comes to the lard, I would use it, but buy in a one pound brick so you can figure. (Ami’s note…sorry mom, I just use butter.)

3. I have used either buttermilk or fresh milk with the vinegar. Both work fine – who wants sour milk in the fridge?

4. I usually use 11 cups of flour – it depends on the flour and the humidity.

5. Don’t make this on a day you just cleaned the kitchen.

6. I bake about 1/2 batch and put the rest in freezer for later (Feb.)

7. put walnut or pecan on top before tou bake. (I bake 11-12 minutes)

8. don’t eat for 2 weeks – Gram Tilly’s law. (Ami’s note…yeah, right. 😉

9. Store with wax paper between layers in air tight containers.

10. Mix all ingredients in mixer except flour. (Stop.) Take out 1/2 mixture and set aside. Add 5 1/2 cups of flour to mixture in mixing bowl. Now put this in another big bowl and put second half of mixture back in mixing bowl and add 5 1/2 cups of flour to that. Now you have it.

11. Put a little flour on your cutting board and dump raisins and citron on. Sprinkle a little more flour and chop. This helps the candied fruit from sticking to each other and to the knife. (citron is a mild citrus fruit)

Very old winter cookie. Recipes many times had no eggs as chickens lay fewer eggs in cold weather.

Mom (the dark haired girl) with her cousin Sue at Aunty Do’s house on Bader Street, South Bend, Indiana.

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