The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas Recipes

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984

Issue: December, 1984

One old time social gathering for young people was a taffy pull. My mother said that at such a gathering, a batch of taffy was made and a plate buttered for each couple. A part of the taffy was poured onto each plate and each couple pulled it together. Taffy is pulled as it gets cool enough to handle and is pulled until the candy is light in color. Some people twist it into fancy shapes, some pull it into thin strips and braid them together.

The main ingredient in taffy is molasses. Since molasses has a high iron content, it's good for you besides being just plain good.

If you have never tried your hand at taffy pulling, it could turn out to be both enjoyable and delicious! Making taffy might become one of your own family holiday traditions.

Molasses Taffy

1 1/2 cups molasses
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

Put all ingredients in a 3 quart saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved, cooking over a medium heat, stirring constantly until syrup is 260 degrees F (or when dropped into cold water forms a hard, but not brittle ball). Remove from heat and pour onto a greased pan or platter. As edges cool, fold toward center as the center cools more slowly and this keeps the edges from getting hard. Don't try to pick up candy and pull it before it cools some or it will stick to your hands too much. When the taffy is cool enough to handle, grease your hands (immediately after doing this, your nose will probably start to itch or the phone will ring). Start pulling the candy out in a rope, then folding it back together. This will pull air into the candy. The candy has been pulled enough when it is light in color. Cut it into bite size pieces or twist it into lengths you desire. Wrap each piece of candy in waxed paper. This recipe makes about one pound.

If you really want to "do-it-yourself", try making the following recipe:

Candied Fruit Rind

Wash oranges, lemons or grapefruit. Remove the peel in 2 sections. Cut each section into inch strips. Cover with cold water. Heat to boiling. Boil 10 minutes. Drain. Repeat this three times. Drain. Cover with boiling water and simmer until tender.


Prepare a heavy syrup using:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
(food coloring optional)

Add peel to syrup and cook slowly until tender. Allow to stand in syrup over night. Drain thoroughly. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on cake rack. Dry in very slow (250 degrees) oven until surface of fruit is firm.

This may be used in your holiday fruit cakes.

One very old recipe is called "Tangled Britches." They make delicious treats and can be made from left over mashed potatoes.

Tangled Britches

1 cup mashed cold potatoes
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 Cup buttermilk

If you are using plain (not self rising) flour, add 1 heaping teaspoon soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder to your flour and sift it together. Mix all the ingredients together except the flour. You can add nutmeg, vanilla, lemon or whatever you would like to season with. Use enough flour to make a dough stiff enough to roll. Roll it about 3/8 inch thick. cut about the width of two fingers, 3 or 4 inches long. Slit through the middle and twist one end through and fry in hot fat. Drain them and roll them in more white sugar or sift with powdered sugar.

This recipe isn't old fashioned, but when I tried a slice of it, it was so good that I wanted to share it with everyone. Gaye Robinson at Lake View Motel and Restaurant at Fancy Gap, Virginia bakes lots of goodies, but this one is my favorite. She calls it:

Hawaiian Pie

4 bananas
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup coconut
1 large (about 1 pound) can crushed pineapple
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar

Arrange layers of banana slices and nuts in a baked pie shell. Cook pineapple, cornstarch and sugar together over low heat until thickened. (Do not drain pineapple, use juice and all.) When pineapple mixture is cool, spread over the banana mixture. Prepare whipped topping according to directions adding coconut to it. Spread it over the pineapple mixture. This is very good in graham cracker crusts also.

Hard Christmas Candy

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup

Mix these ingredients together and cook in a saucepan to 300 degrees. Remove from heat and add flavoring. There are a variety of flavorings for sale. You might be surprised to find that a drug store might have a larger variety than the grocery store. Always try to use oils (such as oil of peppermint, etc.) as they make a candy with much more flavor. You can get wintergreen, spearmint, licorice, horehound and so on. Ask your druggist what is available. 1/2 teaspoon of oil flavoring per batch is a good amount. Mix the flavoring in well.

Add food coloring if desired and pour out the hot candy onto a chilled piece of well greased marble. As it starts to get cool around the edges, start cutting strips of it off and cut the strips into bite size pieces. Be careful not to cut too soon or the candy will stick to your knife. Scissors may be used if greased. Don't wait too long though, because if the candy gets too cool before you try to cut it, it won't cut at all.

Depending on the flavoring you use, this recipe can either be candy or homemade cough drops.