I saved the best recipe for last. My Grandma Knox made this cookie every Christmas; for how many decades I do not know, but my mother recalls it from her childhood. It is the cookie of my Christmas past, present and future. I anticipated this cookie before I ever crossed the threshhold of Grandma's home. I relished the treat as I ate it. I look back nostalgically on those many holidays when she served this delight.
I've never had anything quite like it. I've never known anyone else, save the women folk of our family, who made it. It's a crunchy cookie (except when it first comes out of the oven), with layers of flavor. The aftertaste is sensational. The cookie has an addictive quality -- just ask my children, who one-by-one fell in love with it, just like me.
It is a great cookie to send by mail because it is sturdy and actually improves its flavor over time. It travels well in the car with toddlers. Christian used to munch on a perpetual stash next to his car seat when we made our daily commute to and from the office when we lived in Miami many moons ago. He called them, "Mommy's Special Cookies." Both Christian and Grandma Knox are now gone in flesh, but this cookie brings them instantly near to me.
Merry Christmas, lovely readers.
Grandma Knox's Peppernuts (makes approximately 16 dozen 3" cookies)
1 cup syrup, made with 3/4 cup dark Karo and 1/4 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 tsp cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp anise seed
2 tsp soda dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
4 cups flour
1. Stir syrup, sugar and shortening together in saucepan until melted. Cool.
2. Stir cloves, cinnamon, anise seeds, nuts and flour together.
3. Add cooled liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well and then add the soda dissolved in water. Blend well.
4. Turn dough onto floured surface. The dough will be tacky. Knead the dough until smooth, adding as much as 1/2 cup flour into the dough to remove the wet, tacky feel (do this gradually by sprinkling in a bit at a time as you knead the dough).
5. Pinch and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 2" log and wrap each log in Saran Wrap.
6. Refrigerate the dough for an hour or longer (I make the dough one night, refrigerate it, and then bake the cookies the next evening).
7. Unroll the Saran and cut the dough log into 1/2" pieces. Place the dough on a greased cookie sheet about 2" apart (they will spread while baking) at bake for 12-15 minutes in 325 degree oven (cookies puff while baking and deflate as they cool).
8. Cool on wire racks. Store in tins.