The trouble with secret family recipes

Maybe “secret” is the wrong word. Closely guarded. Unpublished. Passed down.

Whatever you call it, it poses a problem. Especially for someone who married into the family and lives 700 miles away from the motherland.

We were on our own for Thanksgiving this year, and by “on our own” I mean totally on our own. The past three years, since we’ve lived in Pennsylvania, we’ve done the shopping and the planning, but we’ve had family in to help with the actual cooking part.

This year, it was mostly me, a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old. So, mostly me. (Actually, my husband is a HUGE help, even though he has to work on Thanksgiving. Without him, there would be no turkey carving, and I would be in the fetal position in the kitchen.)

What frightened me the most was not the turkey — we have a good cooking method for that — but the rolls.

The infamous must-have at every Kant (my husband’s mother’s side) family gathering.

When we’ve made them in years past, my mother-in-law (whose sister holds the coveted recipe in her mind) has been around to help navigate the waters of yeast bread cooking. I have little experience with this particular type of cooking, so when I read that I’m to add “7 cups of flour, maybe 8, until the dough is sticky but not too sticky,” I’m left dumbfounded in the kitchen in a heaping mess of flour.

When you just KNOW how to make the recipe because you’ve been making it for years, having to write it down for someone is tricky. Here are more ACTUAL instructions from the roll recipe.

“Fill the green cup three times.” There’s a specific cup. Not a regular measuring cup, mind you, but a specific cup. One year my  mother-in-law brought it with her. I didn’t bother tracking down THE cup. I used a measuring cup.

“Use the ice cream scoop to stir.” THE ice cream scoop is a wooden-handled spoon from Alaska. We have our own now. We don’t have to borrow. I’m not sure what the secret of the spoon is, but I’m not about to mess with tradition.

On the plus side, if there’s no one around to tell me if I’m doing it right, there’s no one around to tell me if I’m doing it wrong.

Thank God for technology, though. When the dough was turning sticky, I had to phone a friend, or in this case my mother-in-law.

“See, MeeMaw? The dough is sticky.” (And yes my daughter is covered in flour and not wearing pants. Your point?)

So, the rolls. Here they are before the second time rising. Terribly un-roll shaped.

And out of the oven.

They are supposed to look like cloverleafs, not muffin tops. 

Sigh. At least they tasted good.

And we had fun, especially when we used the rest of the dough to make these German doughnut-type treats for breakfast. They’re called kuchelas. (Kewk-uh-luh. Nobody knows how to spell it, but my husband’s family has been making them on Thanksgiving morning for years.)

MMM … doughnuts. We sort of go all Homer Simpson on these things. Here’s the boy licking sugar off of his hands.

And the girl with a mouthful of doughnut. She’s chewing, I promise, though I love that she looks like she’s savoring every bite.

We may not have “won” this round with the rolls, but when it comes to trying to replicate family Thanksgiving traditions,  we consider ourselves winners.

Next up: Christmas cookies. But I’ve got that one in the bag. When it comes to my grandma’s sugar cookie recipe, I got the genes for making them just right.

Do you have any family recipes that are MUST-HAVES at your get-togethers? Who makes them? How have they been passed from generation to generation?

Happy holidays! And happy cooking!



One thought on “The trouble with secret family recipes

  1. I reMember my Grandma’s rolls. You’ve reminded me to (try to) make them at Christmas.

    I remember hearing many, many , many times as I grew up: “it’s a potluck. Everone can just bring what they want, except Keemie. She’ll bring the rolls.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s