Rich’s grandma was a fabulous baker. She loved to eat, she loved to bake and she loved to talk. She was always happy, at least every time I saw her. Rich said he never remembers a time when she wasn’t energetically recounting all the things she did with, and for, her neighbors and friends. Her conversation was sprinkled with, “whozits” and “whatzits,” when she couldn’t find the word she was looking for, which added a certain flair to her stories.
Rich called her Little Grandma to distinguish her from his mom’s mom, who was taller, but not tall, by any means. Little Grandma was very, very short. She didn’t even approach five feet tall. We have a picture of Calvin standing next to her when he was about three, and the top of his head is only a few inches below her shoulder. I think it is great that Rich had a Little Grandma and a Big Grandma and neither one of them minded one bit his chosen name for her.
I only knew Little Grandma for a few years, but I am glad I got the chance to talk baking with her. She and I corresponded after Rich and I got married, and she often sent me recipes. She would write the recipe in the body of the letter and send me a blank recipe card for me to copy it onto. She claimed her handwriting wasn’t good enough for the recipe. I always told her mine was worse than hers, and I saved a couple of those letters to preserve the recipes as she gave them to me.
She is gone now, but we certainly celebrate her when we make her pecan tassies. She made them so often that she had the recipe memorized. My mother-in-law remembers that she always had tassies when they went to see her. She would sit at her little kitchen table while she pressed the crust into the pans. She twisted off balls of dough and pressed them into the pans, making the well for the filling in no time. I need to make them more often to get the technique.
I think it is so important that we don’t let the old family recipes slip away in this time of instant access to recipes online. Take the time to talk to your relatives and get the family recipes copied down before they are lost, along with the stories and traditions associated with them. I guess I am feeling nostalgic these days, but we need to keep these recipes alive – not just gathering them, but actually making them and sharing the family stories as we eat the results of our labors.
What are some of your family food memories?
Little Grandma’s Pecan Tassies
From The Cook’s Life
The recipe, which was just a list of the ingredients, is directly from Little Grandma, via my mother-in-law. I added the directions and notes. I used a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop to portion out the crust and the filling, but a spoon works too.
6 ounces cream cheese, softened (1/3 less fat works, but regular is better)
14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) butter, softened
1½ cups plus 3 tablespoons flour
1½ cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix well. Divide dough among 48 mini muffin tins. Press dough in bottom and up sides of each muffin cup. Try to make a nice, deep well to make room for the sides to be higher than the filling. Set aside.
Beat eggs with brown sugar, vanilla and melted butter until well combined. Add nuts and stir. Divide filling among crust-lined muffin cups, filling each to the top of the crust. Wipe any drips from the tops of the muffin pans or they will burn in the oven.
Bake tassies for 18-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and filling is set. Do not over bake or the edges of any filling escaping the crust will burn. Cool in pans for 5 minutes so tassies firm up and will be less likely to crumble. Remove from pans to cool on racks.
Store in airtight containers for up to a week, if they last that long.