Our Mother, Lilac, was the best baker we knew. Bar none! And she practised regularly.
One of our Father's sisters used to say 'when a local passed away Lillian was at the door with a pie before they hit the floor!' Slightly exaggerated but along those lines.
There was never a shortage of dessert around 38 First Street in Morrisburg, ON, the exact locale we called home. Actually, most of us still refer to that property as "home", even though today it is the residence of our youngest sister, Louise Irvine and her husband Chuck.
As kids, with friends in tow, it would have been very unfamiliar to walk into that home on any given day and not find some sort of sweet just awaiting an appetite to complete it's purpose.
And there were favourites! Many of them. One in particular for us was a Thimble cookie. It was on rare occasions that we enjoyed Thimble Cookies. Christmas and maybe Thanksgiving. It was one of the few recipes that seemingly had to be created with the ingredients listed. No substitutes.
Our Mother was famous for substitutes. She could and did create entire meals with substitutes. She called it hash! Quite unlike the variety of hash we were introduced to in the 60's, but on a hungry stomach, it too was kind of "heady" as we recall.
But when it came to Thimble cookies, no substitute! The key ingredient was the filling. And it had to be Crab Apple Jelly. Not apple jelly. Not any other kind of jelly. Crab apple jelly! Which coincidentally, Lilac enjoyed on toast with her morning tea.
Mother would scoop and roll and slightly flatten and indent Thimble cookies with the precise hand of a jeweller, drop the perfect amount of apple jelly into the perfectly sized indent to perfectly blend the jelly flavour with the butter, nut, brown sugar and lemon flavours. And they were a sublime mix of crumbly semi-softness with a blast of sweet jelly that made our backteeth smile. And left our minds racing to figure how we could get our hands on more.
Today we have recipes left behind, gathered from our Mother's treasure trove of baking notes and knowledge. Recipes that for the most part list ingredients only. No instructions. Her ability to mix and mould and flavour and taste and tweek are gone.
And it would be, could be, may be these notes and scribblings in her hand writing that bring back wonderful memories of Christmases long gone, times of family and of giving, sharing of excitement and gifts, and especially simple treats created by hand in our own home.
Good fortune shines on us once again in our sisters remembering how the procedure was carried out. And they too can replicate these beautiful little morsels of sweetness so pleasing to the tastebuds.
Lilac's Thimble Cookies . . .
1 cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 beaten egg yolks
4 tsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Cream butter and sugar; add yolk and lemon juice and beat well. Stir in flour until well blended.
Form into 1 inch balls, dip into beaten egg white then roll in chopped nuts. Place on greased cookie sheet, make deep indentation in center of each cookie. Bake for 5 minutes, then quickly indent centers again, continue baking for 10 minutes.
Fill center of each hot cookie with crab aple jelly.
Open your face and swallow about five of them immediately!!!