As a little girl, I (Brenda) spent a lot of my growing up years with my grandparents and so it would be fitting that some of my fondest Christmas memories would include them.
Family gatherings on my mom’s side of the family meant spending a day around many people and so I don’t really recall a lot of “intimate moments” but what I do remember well are the sleigh rides. Grandpa Hamm had beautifully matched Percheron horses – so well matched that I couldn’t tell which one was Fred and which one was Barney but I would stand at the front of the hay wagon admiring them as he would tell me who was who. I often dreamed that one day I would be the one holding onto the reigns all by myself but, in the moment, was happy to just stand in front of my grandpa and helping him keep those horses on the right path as we sang Jingle Bells… our timing may not have matched the harness bells that the horses wore but it was fun just the same. One year ended up being a little more eventful than any other year which created a lasting memory… can you imagine being on a hayride and the sleigh breaks apart? Yep… We were riding along and singing our sleighing song when the back end of the sleigh broke and a few of the carolers face-planted in the snow. No one was hurt and my grandpa had the situation under control in no time… his hard work and efforts to break his team of horses paid off when they didn’t bolt.
Sleigh rides were not just a once in a lifetime experience when my grandparents lived on the farm but rather this tradition continued for many years after they sold the farm and moved into town. It was then we would head out to my uncle’s place in the country where the horses were taken care of until Grandma passed away and Grandpa would eventually sell them.
Christmas with my dad’s side of the family was quite different – he was from a smaller family and the only kids running around at the time were my sister and I. Aside from the many gifts that we would open… and only after the dishes from the meal were taken care of… my grandparents would put out so much candy, nuts, and baking. There seemed to be no shortage of food and yet I still ate like it was going out of style. One of my favorite things to do, as a young girl, was sit on Grandpa’s knee and crack open the walnuts and hazelnuts – more like he opened them up and I devoured them. That isn’t so much a tradition as it is a memory but one of my favorite “traditions” is Grandma making Peppernuts every year. Those quarter-sized treats were full of Christmas flavor and crunch… and were oh so very addicting – I am grateful that my sister now carries on that tradition and shares with me because while I love homemade food/baking the kitchen is just not my favorite place to be… there are few things that I do make each Christmas but if someone else wants to make it and share it with me I’ll be the first to jump at their generosity.
I will not be making Peppernuts anytime soon, but if you have the desire to try something new and love to bake then I invite you to enjoy the recipe for these wonderful little treats… the recipe may yield a lot of Peppernuts but I promise you they won’t last long.