Chef Terri Milligan: Edible Treasures
For me, a recipe is like a sentimental greeting card from a friend or a great letter from someone you love. You tuck it away for safe keeping. You move it from house to house. And each and every time you pull it out, you are reminded of those people, places and occasions that made you hold on to a torn and worn out recipe card year after year.
All of us have a favorite holiday recipe. Some are elaborate like my grandmother Rose’s Santa Claus cookies. I remember the three-day process: Making the dough, cutting out the Santas and baking the cookies on the first day; Beard frosting with coconut decoration on the second; and frosting hats with red sanding sugar before the finishing touch of raisin eyes on the last day.
Other recipes are extraordinary in their simplicity, like the classic sugar cookie that I made with my late mother, Marie Reitz. Hers were always paper thin and perfect. Mine? Well, I still can’t get them to look like hers.
These recipes are similar to a favorite song or photo. They take us to a place we all want to revisit, especially during the holidays. And like all great recipes, even the simple act of reading them reconnects us to the friends, family and places that are essential to who we are and where we come from.
I’m sharing a few of my favorite holiday recipes. I look at this collection as something old, something borrowed and something new. All make terrific edible gifts. Include a copy of the recipe with each gift so the recipe can be treasured for future generations. Perhaps that recipe will become a tattered piece of paper that gets placed in a cookbook, pulled out year after year.
My first recipe comes from a very worn and carefully hand-written recipe card from my mother Marie. My grandmother, Kunigunde Stahl Schwarz Tschurwald, was born in Bavaria in 1894 and immigrated through Ellis Island at in 1905. My grandfather, Martin Schwarz, was born in 1892 and came to the United States in 1904. Martin was a harness maker and met my grandmother in Hammond, Indiana. Because of the large German population in the area, we suspect that my grandparents were “sponsored” by Germans who already lived in the region.
My mother and her sister, Margaret, grew up learning how to bake the traditional recipes of my grandmother’s homeland. In addition to homemade hand cut noodles, leberknodel (liver dumplings) and sauerbrauten, there were the candied fruit studded stollen made every Christmas. I share with you my mother’s stollen recipe with a Door County twist … the addition of Kirsch marinated dried Montmorency cherries. Although my mother passed away several years ago, I know she’d be happy to see me sharing one of her treasured holiday recipes.
My second recipe is “borrowed” from my friend and fellow culinary instructor Janice Thomas, owner of the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay. The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without cookies. And there’s no better cookie than Janice’s Linzer cookie made with drunken Door County cherries. They’re delicious and beautiful, finished with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Wrapped in a box with a simple ribbon with recipe attached and you have an edible gift that’s both heartfelt and stunning.
My recipe? Well, it’s not as elaborate. Nonetheless, it’s simplicity is both rustic and elegant. Plus it really tastes great! It also mixes two of our county’s most wellknown fruits … Montmorency cherries and crisp orchard apples.
Who wouldn’t want to receive a crisp, red apple drenched in rich caramel and chocolate studded with nuts and dried cherries? Wrap them individually with a bright holiday ribbon and you have a gift that will be remembered long after the recipient has gobbled it up.
So from my recipe box to yours, I offer three edible treasures as inspiration for your own creations. I hope this issue of Edible Door will be kept from year-to-year on your cookbook shelf, get tattered yellow edges and have bits of caramel stuck to the pages. I also hope it reminds you how expressive a cherished recipe can be — one that evokes memories of all the special people in your life each and every time you make it.
Happy baking and happy holidays.
-Chef Terri Milligan