(Written with Gail Hartzell)
“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, and a simmering pot of love.”
Cookies aren’t an American invention but you wouldn’t know it around Christmas. The tradition of baking homemade butter cookies, cut into various festive shapes and frosted green and red is as sacred as Santa. Millions of bloggers swap recipes, decorating tips, all wrapped around the lore of “the family who bakes together, stays together.”
Gail Hartzell of Uniontown, Ohio takes this time-honored pastime to new heights. She just hosted her second annual Heritage Cookie Swap to honor treasured memories of time spent with her grandmother, Mary Endlich, gathering friends and family to share stories of Christmases past, swap vintage recipes of cookies and recall family traditions.
Using Grandma Mary’s handmade aprons, rolling pins and antique bowls, Gail and her daughter, Katie, baked their favorite one hundred year old year recipe of Grandma’s Ginger Cookies to honor this years’ Christmas Tradition.
The idea of the annual cookie swap was inspired by a cookbook/scrapbook that Gail crafted paying tribute to Grandma Endlich’s farm lifestyle and the love and pride that went into her cooking and baking. True to her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, Grandma Endlich was a simple, “from the earth” farm-raised cook who grew and canned most of her own fruits and vegetables. She used sight and feel for measuring ingredients–a lump of lard the size of a walnut or an egg was the exact amount for a flaky crust.
The use of fruits, nuts and molasses in her recipes instead of chocolate or marshmallows was another signature technique, telling of Grandma Endlich’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots.
“When I bake ginger cookies using my Grandma Endlich’s 100+ year recipe, I’m participating in a tradition that has endured in our family for over a century.” says Gail. “With each bite I taste, I remember my most cherished childhood memories of Christmas; Grandma in her warm kitchen baking and the two of us spending time together.”
(Next page: See photos of Gail’s annual cookie swap)
Here are the photos of a most perfect cookie-making day: