Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Heirloom Recipes: The Original Social Network

Last night Mary called me from the Whole Foods in Manhattan. She was having a hard time finding the specific kind of hot sausage that my heirloom recipe for Reunion Pea Casserole calls for. I straighted her out.

Maggie, in Louisville, is also planning to make RPC for New Year's Day and while Jack probably isn't baking one in Shenzhen, China, I bet he is wishing he could dig into a big wedge of the black-eyed pea savory pie that I've been making every New Year's Day for the last 25 years.

That's the beauty of a heirloom recipe. It connects people: parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren, friends to friends. Perhaps these special recipes, mostly handwritten on cards with lots of funny notations, are the original social network. Before Pinterest or Facebook, generous cooks would share their recipes with others via these little cards. I started to think about the beauty of these recipes when my sister Kathy sent us a jam cake this Christmas made from my grandmother's recipe. She has the original handwritten card from Grandmommy's recipe box and was kind enough to retype it and send it to me.

The first Christmas that we were married, Ed's sisters, Gay and Bobbie, put together a family recipe cookbook for me. (I think they thought Ed might starve.) It included recipes handwritten on index cards and arranged in a binder for such essentials as Scalloped Oysters, Olive Nuggets, Salmon Patties, Mimi's Custard, something called Spanish Spaghetti, Tuna Casserole and Coke Salad. Yes, Coke Salad. I treasure this volume.

I cook from scratch almost every day. Most of the time, I don't use a recipe. But I have a dozen or so recipes that have been passed down to me from my grandmother, other relatives, my friends, or gleaned from old cookbooks. These are the recipes that I make on special occasions every year. These are the recipes that my children will remember from their childhood and will surely incorporate into their adult lives and pass on to their children. These are the recipes that will live on long after I've stopped cooking.

I've written about most of these before. Here are the links to:
A new heirloom recipe was sent to me this December. It came from Cousin Glenda, who got it from my mom's friend, Jeane Cullen. It is for her famous fudge sauce. I've never needed the recipe because she would always make a jar for us to enjoy over peppermint ice cream. It's high time I figured out how to make my own. I've made it twice this season, but find it doesn't last long enough to use as a topping; rather, I just grab a spoon and dip into the jar for a little mid-morning snack.


Jeane Cullen's Hot Fudge Sauce

1/3 cup butter
8 squares unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's)*
8 squares semisweet chocolate (I used Baker's)*
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

*Jeane's original recipe calls for 2 squares of chocolate, but Baker's recently remolded their products and 1 original square is now equal to 4 squares. Go figure. 

In a heavy large pan melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Blend in cream, sugar and salt. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Store in refrigerator. Makes 2-1/3 cups.

So, my question to you is: What are YOUR heirloom recipes? What recipes are you known for? Won't you please share them with me?

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