At some point after I moved to New Mexico, when I would fly home for Christmas (usually the week before Christmas) my mom and I would stop off at her sister’s house for lunch. My Auntie Virgie and Uncle Mark lived not far from O’Hare and Mom’s other sister, my Auntie Janice, would come as well.
I loved sitting at the table with all of them, hearing their stories. And when I moved back to New Mexico, taking Mom with me, the tradition ended. Uncle Mark died about seven months after we moved and then Mom died about five months after that. Suddenly, the tradition was just a memory, but one I am lucky to have. We can’t ever get the time back with our loved ones.
Every year Auntie Virgie bakes up a storm of Christmas cookies and for me she would fill a small green tin with candy canes on it and give it to me. I’d keep it until the next Christmas and we would repeat the process. I had two favorites: her pecan balls and a refrigerator cookie that’s so light it melts in your mouth.
I tried the recipe with walnuts, not being much of a pecan fan, but this year I realized there is no replacement for the pecans. They give the balls the great flavor that make them hard to stop eating.
Auntie Virgie’s Pecan Balls
6 Tablespoons shortening
½ cup butter
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon milk
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
Cream shortening and butter together, add sugar and cream until light. Add vanilla and milk, blend well. Mix in flour and nuts to creamed mixture, blend well. Roll into small balls. Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly browned at 325 degrees. Cool and roll in confectioner’s sugar.