Remembering Christmas (1/2)

Posted by Ted on Dec 13, 2009 in Food & Drinks, Memories

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice, or Kwanzaa, one thing unites them all, and that is the gathering of family and friends to celebrate being together. Lights play prominently in the form of candles or blinking trees, in part as a counterpoint to the shortest days of the year. Another commonality that goes hand-in-hand with celebrations is the food that is painstakingly prepared for days ahead of time, and is usually consumed all too quickly. This year I decided to remember my mom and grandma, making holiday treats to share with my new family.

The first memory was of bourbon balls that my mother made a few times. I’ve wanted to make them for years, but they are best when left to “age” for a couple of weeks, and I would never remember in time. Bourbon is not only my spirit of choice, but it was my mom’s as well. Her favorite was Wild Turkey. Mine happens to be Old Rip van Winkle. However, given that it is somewhat expensive and hard to get, I settled for an old standby, Maker’s Mark. If you google for bourbon balls, you’ll find a couple of divergent recipes – made with Nilla Wafers or not (most recipes call for it), and whether there is chocolate or not, and whether it is in the mix, or simply used as a coating. After trying two variations, my third attempt is as follows;
Ingredients

* 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
* 2 1/2 cups vanilla-wafer crumbs (from about 75 cookies)
* 3/4 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, and chopped fine
* 1/3 cup bourbon
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3 tablespoons honey

Preparation

* In a small deep bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar until combined well.
* In a medium bowl stir together wafer crumbs and pecans. There are many methods one might use to crush these, I used a gallon ziplock bag and a rolling pin, which worked perfectly.
* In a small bowl whisk together bourbon, remaining 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, vanilla, and honey. Then pour into crumb mixture, stirring with a fork until combined well.
* Form mixture into balls about an inch or so in diameter and shake, 3 at a time, in cocoa mixture.
* Bourbon balls may be kept, in layers separated by wax paper or plastic wrap, in an airtight container in a cool dry place for at least 1 week. Not having a basement, I added a packet of Do Not Eat to the tupperware and put it in the fridge.

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An adventurer at heart, Ted Beatie is at his happiest when he’s off the beaten path. His deepest passion is sharing the world through photography and writing, found at The Pocket Explorer. He is also managing editor for Rolf Potts' Vagabonding, where he curates a Case Study series. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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