Friday, December 4, 2009

Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie

I believe that most basic pecan pie recipes are about the same, but grandma made this pie for all holidays once Aunt Effie became part of the family functions. Of course, grandma made lots of pies as she made pumpkin, apple, cherry, mincemeat, and pecan.  Occasionally, she'd make a Chocolate Cream pie.
Pecan pie is a rich and gooey pie that is either loved or hated. It is too rich for my taste buds, but I make this pie several times a year as Bob loves it. I've made it for my neighbor before as a "thank you",  such as when she watched the five younger grandkids when my brother Scott passed away so we could all attend his memorial without worrying about small children. She is from Georgia and loves pecan pie.
Aunt Effie loved pecan pie, too, and this is the one that she always made.

Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie

1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbls. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans
1 9" pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30-35 minutes, till outer edges are set.
*Alice makes a similar pie. She mixes all ingredients except the pecans, which she arranges in a circle around the pie so that it is prettier and more professional looking.
**I have used half cup dark Karo and half cup light Karo before just for fun.

Aunt Effie'

Effie's Mom's Nut Bread

Grandma always had a couple of loaves of this bread, along with the banana bread at all the holidays. This was one of Aunt Effie's favorite quick breads. You will find this recipe in just about any old cook book prior to 1960 as it was a popular bread. It has a dry consistency and is good toasted with butter. You will notice that there is no added fat in this bread.

Effie's Mom's Nut Bread

4 cups flour
6 tsps. baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 cup nuts, chopped coarsely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour and baking powder, add sugar; mix. Add eggs and milk, then nuts, blend well. Pour into two greased 9"x5" loaf pans. Let rise 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool. Freezes well.
*Bread spreads such as a honey butter or a cream cheese spread would be good on this bread.
**When I make this bread I will post a picture.

Effie's Pecan Butter Balls

These cookies seem to be a staple at Christmastime all over as most families make these. They go by many names: Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, and Melting Moments, just to name a few. These are a true shortbread cookie made with lots of butter and pecans.
Growing up, Grandma always had a tin of these cookies that she would make as she knew Aunt Effie like them and that we did, too. These had been cookies that Aunt Effie made regularly.
I use a nut mill to run the pecans through so they will be chopped up fine. I have used walnuts in place of the pecans with good success. I prefer to use pecans, but one year the price of walnuts was $1.99 a pound while the cost of pecans were around $4.99 a pound! This has happened several times over the years, and I will not pay that big of a price difference. On those years when  pecans are so much higher in price, I use walnuts instead. These are one of Kim's favorite cookies and I usually make some for her.

Effie's Pecan Butter Balls

1 cup butter or oleo, softened (DO NOT use spreads!)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
2 cups finely chopped pecans
powdered sugar

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Cream butter with powdered sugar. Add vanilla, then flour and pecans; blend well.  Flour your hands and shape into balls the size of walnuts. Place on greased cookie tins and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, then roll in powdered sugar and place on wire racks. When cool, re-roll in powdered sugar. Store in airtight containers or freeze from 2-6 months, depending on how well wrapped.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Aunt Effie's Famous Sugar Cut Out Cookies

YUM! About sums up what these cookies are all about! I've had many sugar cookies, but these are the best hands down. I remember the very first time I had one of these, I think it was December of 1968, Kim and I had gone with Dad to go over to Harold and Effie's, and Aunt Effie had dozens of these goodies sitting out all over her Duncan Phyfe table in the basement where she'd iced a bunch of them. We were about eight and nine years old at the time, and we were told we could pick out one~O-N-E cookie out of all those lovely iced shapes! I chose a yellow iced camel and savored every bite. Kim and I both agreed we could have eaten a few more as they were so very delicious! There were Santa's, bells, stars, angels, trees, snowmen, camels and reindeer, and after much consideration I had to have a camel.
If that was not the last year that Aunt Effie made cookies, then it was close to the last year as I never had another one that she made herself. Grandma made a few of these once or twice, and then when I was fifteen I began to make these and have made them ever since.
I remember back in 1982 I had gone over to Pam and Jerry's house for dinner and Uncle Ed was there. I had made some heart-shaped sugar cookies for St. Valentine's Day and had iced them pink. I put out a platter and offered some to Uncle Ed but he declined, saying that sugar cookies always looked good but tasted like cardboard. I assured him mine did not as they were Aunt Effie's recipe. I had a cookie or two, so did some others, and after awhile of sitting there, they became irresistable and Uncle Ed reached for one, biting into it and then having the funniest look of surprise on his face. "Why, these are good!", he stated. I laughed and told him of course they were good! I was not going to waste my time making cardboard tasting cookies! I'd had quite a few of those myself over the years, and I've had plenty since. I not only want cookies that look nice, but they must be also be tasty~no sense in making nasty cookies
My kids love these and always clamor for them at Christmas, though they can be made any time of year and cut into any shape.

Aunt Effie's Famous Sugar Cut Out Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbls. milk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Decorator's Icing (recipe follows)
Non Pareils ( colored sugar balls)

Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla; beat in eggs and milk, mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to batter. Chill 30 minutes or longer, till easy to handle.
Prehat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out 1/4" thick, cut with floured cutters or with a floured glass. Place 2" apart on lightly greased cookie tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes; do not brown or allow to burn. Cool on wire racks. Ice and add sprinkles. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on size.
Decorator's Icing: Sift 3 cups powdered sugar into a bowl, add about 1/2 tsp. vanilla and enough milk to make a slightly stiff, but not hard icing that will slide slowly off of a spoon and mound in ribbons. If it runs it is too wet and needs more sugar to stiffen it up properly. (I am used to when it "feels" right). Divide icing evenly into 2-3 bowls, depending on how many colors you wish to make and add food coloring, a bit at a time until you get the right color you wish. I usually make a yellow, pink, and green batch so I will have three colors for the cookies. Ice each cookie, and then sprinkle with non pareils (sugar balls) immediately. Allow icing to set up for about 15 minutes before stacking cookies. Make sure icing is hard before stacking.
*I almost always double this recipe as I make a lot of these at a time. Once icing has hardened, these can be layered in a container with wax paper between layers and frozen. Sometimes the icing will look different but it does not affect the taste of the cookies. These will freeze for 2-6 months, depending on how well they are wrapped and stored.
One year I made 720 of these cookies! Jenna helped me to ice them and we counted them. It took us two days to ice them all. But they are very popular.

Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold

Who could forget Aunt Effie? If you were born before 1975 you most likely remember aunt Effie at all the holidays up at grandma and grandpa's house. She quickly became a fixture in our family, and she and grandma had become close friends. It wasn't always this way as they led separate lives.
Harold was grandpa's fraternal uncle. Uncle Harold was born on October 2, 1891, and he passed away in July of 1973. Aunt Effie was born September 2, 1891, and passed away on September 28, 1979. They had had one daughter, Mildred, born in 1912, who passed away at age 38 of heart complications. Mildred never had children.
In their earlier years, Harold and Effie had been friends with the great WWI flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. Harold and Effie ran in circles that were a bit above the ordinary, and their choice of friends reflected this. Somewhere in their early years they moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio, where both would work. Aunt Effie owned a millinery shop where she made and sold hats. They would eventually come back to Columbus where they bought a small, modest home at 6511 McGuffey Ave.
Aunt Effie enjoyed cooking and baking. One of the things she was most famous for were her Sugar Cut Out cookies. The day after Thanksgiving, Aunt Effie would begin to make thousands of these cookies as she would make them up, roll them out, ice them, and give them away to the many people whom they knew. These cookies have become a standard in my holiday cookie baking as they are the best I've ever had. The recipe had originally come from Aunt Effie's mother.
Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold didn't really come into the family as "fixtures" until around 1968/69, when Dad, Kim, and I were living up at grandma and grandpa's house. One day, Uncle Harold called grandpa and told him he needed help. His health was failing, he could no longer drive, and he also had back problems. Grandpa sent Dad over to take Uncle Harold to the doctor's office and the store, many times with Kim and I in tow. We got to know both well in this way.
I remember Uncle Harold liked to eat Kix cereal, which I thought was rather a horrid choice, at the time. He always kept a few boxes bought up and on the shelf.
As Uncle Harold's health began to fail, we kids were "farmed out" to stay with Aunt Effie. I remember one time when Uncle Harold was in the hospital, I had to go stay with Aunt Effie, and I had to sleep on his bed. They had two seperate beds in the same room as Uncle Harold had a bad back. Lucky me! I wanted to sleep in that pretty guest room (which I don't think any of us kids ever did get to sleep in!), but instead, I had to sleep in Uncle Harold's bed, which sported a door between the mattress and box springs! Yes, you read that right, a door. A heavy wooden door that was old, heavy, and shellacked a deep golden brown. It wasn't very comfortable!
After Harold passed away, each one of us older kids had to take our turn being "farmed out" to Aunt Effie's house to keep her company. This meant that Kim, Vic, Val, Irene, and I all got to go stay at Aunt Effie's house on a semi-regular basis in order to keep her company. Being the oldest and more sedate, I got to go more often than all the others. I wouldn't have minded so much had we been allowed to take a jog around the block once a day, but the neighorhood had deteriorated so that it was no longer safe to walk down the street~even during the day. One time, Aunt Effie wanted to walk down to the corner store a few blocks away, perhaps 4-5 blocks, and she told me to keep close by! Good heavens, a snail could crawl faster than she could walk, and when one is eleven years old, this is hard on the exuberance that one naturally has and needs to run off. There was no running off any excess energy at Aunt Effie's house! The funny thing is that dear Aunt Effie felt responsible for me and wanted me near her to protect me, but I am afraid had anyone tried to molest us in any way, that it would have been me doing all the protecting~ which I would have gladly done! I did love Aunt Effie! All of us kids loved her.
One time, when it was particularly hot and humid out, the only exercise I got in a three day visit was a quick trip out to the small back yard to water the three tomato plants growing near the clothes line. When Aunt Effie took her afternoon nap, I placed an SOS call to grandma to get me out of there!!! My knees actually hurt from inactivity! Grandma sent Dad up with a different kid, whom I can't recall, perhaps Kim, but I got out of there for a couple of weeks so I could go home and run like a kid needs to do. I couldn't wait to jump on a bike or go swimming and stretch my limbs. I was getting all kinked up sitting around doing nothing.
We all loved Aunt Effie, and it isn't that we so minded staying with her, there just wasn't much to do. I got smart after the first couple of trips and took a book or two with me, along with some puzzle books like Word Finds, and also a deck of cards (Solitaire can keep you occupied for hours!), and so I had things to do.
Of course, we were sometimes called upon to run the sweeper, run down into the basement to fetch something Aunt Effie needed, or to water the tomato plants.
By the time Uncle Harold died, Aunt Effie had little she could do to occupy her time. Her sight was not as good as it once had been, so she could not longer embroider or crochet, and she no longer felt compelled to bake, so grandma began to make all of Aunt Effie's favorite dishes for the holidays. The Chinese Chews, Rum Balls, and the Nut Bread would become traditions at the holiday feasts we always enjoyed. And that included Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie that grandma would make.
Aunt Effie had a "peaches and cream" complexion, hair that was barely gray, and she had never drank a soda pop in her life, though she did drink coffee. She liked her sweets as she always kept spearmint leaf and orange wedge jellies, and Kraft jelly nougats in the candy dish on the coffee table in the living room.
She and grandma used to like to go downtown on the bus to eat at the Colonial Room in Lazarus, and to get their hair done. This meant grandma would catch a bus on the corner of McCutcheon and Lincolnshire, then change and go to McGuffey where she'd have to walk to Aunt Effie's, and then the two of them would catch a bus downtown by walking down to the bus stop. Sometimes, Uncle Ed would drop grandma off at Effie's, and in later years, Alice would take grandma over to Effie's and help her clean Effie's house. Aunt Effie was thoroughly entrenched into our family.
When Aunt Effie passed away it was the only time I ever saw a misting of tears in grandma's eyes. Grandma sure loved Aunt Effie as they had grown close over the years.
We all missed Aunt Effie and her quiet ways once she was gone. But thankfully, we had her recipes and these helped us to keep the food traditions alive that we had come to love. I share them with you here, along with others hand-written in her cook books that I inherited when she passed away.