The Origin of the Christmas Cookie
By Alice Roemer
On the one hand, you may think that a Christmas cookie is one that you make (and eat) around Christmastime. But is that all there is to it? Because certainly Christmas cookies aren’t just a result of everyday recipes dressed up with red and green sprinkles or dye, are they?
To discover the true meaning of Christmas (cookies), you have to go back–way back–in time. Now, it’s no secret that sweets have been part of holiday rituals since long before Christmas was a declared a holiday (which was in 1870, in case you were wondering). But according to documentation it was a combination of Eastern spices and European flair that contributed to the cookie’s success. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc. were introduced to Europe during the middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes. While the tradition of Christmas cookies may have its roots in Medieval Europe, and while we may associate some cookies with the holidays more than others, it’s also true that Christmas cookie recipes today come from all over the world-as people immigrated and adapted, naturally they would want to honor their culture’s recipes with the Christmas cookie tradition. With that said, why don’t we start a new Christmas cookie tradition, one for the birds!! There are a wide variety of recipes available for the different species of birds such as Mockingbird Muffins, Robin Robust, Finch Fries, and Dove Divine to name a few. Bird seed cookies are fun and easy to make, and are truly appreciated by your wild avian friends in the dead of winter when pickings are slim. Making these cookies with nutritious ingredients from your kitchen is also much cheaper than buying similar commercially made products. They also make lovely gifts for the bird lovers on your list. If you’re a squirrel enthusiast, rest assured that those little critters will be nothing short of thrilled with the new addition to their diet.
Combine two cups of flour, ¼-cup of sugar and ½ teaspoon of baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
Stir ½-cup of bacon grease or melted lard into the dry mixture. Blend thoroughly until crumbly.
Drop two whole raw eggs in their shells into the blender. Chop the eggs and shells.
Pour the processed eggs into the dough, and knead them into it.
Knead ½-cup wild bird seed into the cookie dough. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and refrigerate it for four hours.
Flour a flat working surface and the rolling pin. Roll the cookie dough out to about ¼ inch thick.
Cut the cookies from the dough with cookie cutters or with a mug or drinking glass. Pierce the middle of each cookie with a drinking straw to make holes for hanging the treats. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 325F and bake the bird seed cookies for 10-13 minutes, or until they’re hard. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and cool it on a rack.
Cut a piece of twine about three feet long for each cookie. Run the cording through the hole and secure the treat to the twine with a knot.
Hang the cookies in a place near a window where your family can watch the birds eat from indoors and refrigerate the others in plastic food storage bags for up to a week.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has published a booklet called “Recipes for the Birds” and we have an abundant supply of them here at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory AND the best part is they are “free”….. So take a few minutes, stop by and see us and especially this Friday, December 6, 2013 you are invited to join us at our Annual Holiday Open House and Nature Store Sale (tax free day)from 10:00 am to 6:00pm. We have lots of cool stuff, books, activity kits, puppets, t-shirts and a lot of holiday cheer!!! GCBO is located at 103 Hwy 332 W, Lake Jackson, TX. Hope to see you there.