Lee's Kitchen: Something homemade for friends at the holidays
A year ago, a COVID vaccine was my holiday hope to family and friends (and everyone else in the world). I think all we wanted was a vaccine that this once-a-century pandemic could be handled and we wouldn’t have to watch Andrew Cuomo every single morning on television (although we didn’t know then that his final showstopper would be his last ever). By the end of February I got my first shot and the second three weeks later. Last August I got my booster.
So here it is: December 2021. Thanksgiving is behind us. Many of us spent that holiday with friends and family. And what do we talk about now? We talk about the idiots who refuse to be vaccinated. And the problems with delayed flights (although we are thrilled we can begin to fly). And a new phrase has entered dictionary: supply chains. We see pictures of enormous ships hugging the coast of Long Beach, California. Will there be enough toys for the kids and, for us, every new computer gadget made in China?
Some years ago, as I drove home after Christmas, I heard on NPR an idea about what each child should get for Christmas (or Hanukkah): one thing she needs, one thing she wants and one book. To this I add: something homemade from your kitchen to take to friends at the holiday. And next week I will give you Richard Swanson’s recipe for the best granola clusters I have ever tasted, along with my daughter’s recipe for fudge. And maybe my dentist’s peanut brittle.
Recipe from my grandparents’ grocery store a century ago
2 cups granulated sugar
4 big tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, add whisk sugar and cocoa. Stir in water and continue cooking the mixture until it begins to boil; bring the heat to simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the stove, add a dash of salt and the vanilla extract. When cool, add to little Mason jars.
From Cecina Simpatica byJohanne Killeen and George Germon, Harper Collins, New York, 1991
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
In a saucepan, scald cream and reduce heat to very low; keep warm.
Heat sugar in another saucepan over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. The sugar will slowly melt into a clear liquid and gradually darken (don’t worry if the sugar lumps; break up lumps with the wooden spoon and they will melt into the caramel as is darkens.
When caramel has turned a medium-dark mahogany, pour it slowly into the hot cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will splatter so be careful. If the temperature is too low, you may find portions of the caramel solidify. In that case, increase the flame under the cream and stir until the bits melt and mixture becomes smooth. The caramel sauce thickens as it cools and will solidify in the refrigerator, where it will keep for days. It may be reheated gently to pouring consistency. Pour the caramel into little Mason jars and refrigerate.
Lee White lives in Groton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.