The cold and damp weather hanging over Cow Hill Cottage this past week has kept me close to the warmth of the kitchen stove and the crackle of the fire in the living room hearth. As I pondered my progress with Christmas holiday preparations, a flood of memories transported me back to my childhood. And, with fondness, I contemplated the ghosts of my Christmases past, although I realize that these nostalgic memories are no doubt fogged by a youthful perspective and the dimming effects of time.
Central to my holiday memories are the rich assortment of holiday foods and treats that both grandmothers, as well as my mother, prepared each year for our family’s enjoyment. Familiar aromas, like ham and turkey roasting or endless batches of cookies being pulled from the oven, fill the house and can still transport me back when I notice their presence in the air.
Among my many favorite holiday treats I wish to share with you are two recipes that, in my mind, are central to an enjoyable Christmas season.
The first, Potato Candy, was made by both of my grandmothers, Anna Kelly VanScyoc and Ada Pheasant Ewing. The genesis of this simple but delicious confection has been attributed to both an old-country recipe brought over by Scottish and Irish Immigrants that settled throughout the Appalachian Mountains and a frugality required of those who survived the hardships of the Great Depression due to this recipe’s affordable ingredients. No matter which story (or both) you subscribe to, this candy will stir the childhood memories of many and will, no doubt, become a holiday tradition in your home as it has in mine.
The second is a beloved Fudge recipe that Anna Kelly VanScyoc was known for, and her daughter (my mother) continues the tradition during the holiday season by giving away many batches to family and friends. This recipe is most likely from the early part of the twentieth century, as it relies heavily on Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Cream as essential ingredients. Its creamy consistency and unrivaled flavor will make it a favorite in your home as well.
Peel and boil one small waxy-type potato until well done.
Allow to cool, and mash well so that no lumps can be found.
Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk to the mashed potato, then begin to add confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, kneading until the mixture resembles a smooth pliable dough.
Portion the dough into manageable pieces, and roll out with a rolling pin until approximately 1/8th-inch in thickness, dusting your board and rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking.
Spread a generous coating of high-quality creamy peanut butter over the rolled dough.
Roll the dough and peanut butter into a log as you would for a jelly roll. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least six hours.
When ready to serve, cut each log into coins.
Note: The vanilla and milk are additions I have made to enhance the recipe, but they were not included in the original form, which only called for sugar, potato, and peanut butter.
1 Pound Confectioners’ Sugar
1/2 Cup Milk
4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Mix the above ingredients and bring to a rolling boil for no more than one minute.
Turn off the heat and add the following, beating well:
18 Ounces Peanut Butter
8 Ounces Marshmallow Whip
Pour into an 8 1/2-inch square pan, smooth the top, and allow to cool.
Cut into pieces.
Before I am called away to tend the needs of the cottage fires, I would like to raise a glass to the good health of you and yours and wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best throughout the New Year.
The Peasant Bon Vivant