The first time I made candies for Christmas was during the chapter of my life before we had cows or kids. We lived in town, just a block from the grocery store. I had evenings and weekends free.
My first candies were chocolate-dipped raspberry-orange buttercreams. The idea came from one of the candies we enjoyed during our trip to Germany earlier that year. I started with a recipe I found online and tweaked it along the way. After the filling was mixed, chilled and shaped, I carefully dipped each center, first in white chocolate and then in dark chocolate. Each piece was then garnished with a drizzle of white chocolate tinted pink.
The project took an unbelievable amount of time. First, because we didn't have an electric mixer, so I had to beat the filling by hand. Second, because I wanted each piece of candy to be perfect.
I was so proud when the candies were all finished. I packaged them up in little tins and gave them to family and friends with a note that read:
These buttercreams were lovingly created in honor of a woman whose love touched many, but whose life ended much too soon - my grandmother, Jeanie Smith. Her memory lives on in the hearts of those who knew her, and of those who have known her only through stories. Many of those stories are of her passion for baking and cooking, and the love she doted on others through her sweets.
These candies are my attempt to pass on the legacy of her life and her love. They are made from scratch, whipped by hand, and decorated with care. I give them to you as an expression of my love, and in appreciation for the many ways you have touched my life. May each sweet bite be a reminder to live fully and love deeply, as Jeanie did.
I haven't attempted to make those buttercreams since that winter. We started farming the next spring. And a short time after that, we became parents. Between cows and kids and the logistical maneuvering it takes for us just to show up at Christmas gatherings, I haven't had enough time or energy (or clean dishes or table space) to undertake making buttercreams.
But this year I was inspired to make candy. And, believe it or not, I felt inspired to include Dan and Monika. (Glen helped, too. He was involved in taste testing.)
We started with a couple of relatively easy recipes - Turtle Bon-Bons and Peanut Butter Bon-Bons. (For those who are interested, I posted pictures and recipes on our blog.)
I took care of mixing up the filling for each recipe, chilling it, shaping it into balls and chilling again. The kids got to help decorate the bon-bons after they were dipped in chocolate. Next year I'll have to start with a double batch of each recipe, because during each phase of the making, a conspicuous portion of each batch went missing.
Some of the unfinished treats were used to appease Dan and Monika while they waited for their part in the making. Some were submitted for taste testing. Finally, the time came to add the sprinkles to the bon-bons. My recipes don't call for sprinkles, but I figured adding sprinkles would be the easiest way to involve my little helpers.
It might have been the easiest, but it might also have been the messiest. There were sprinkles everywhere. Even after I put tape over most of the holes on Monika's jar of sprinkles, the sprinkles still poured right out. There were more sprinkles on the pans, table and floor than there were on the candies.
As an aside, after Dan and Monika helped Grandma put sprinkles on her Christmas cookies, Dan told her, "It's okay, Grandma, I'll get the skid loader and clean this right up."
Mess though it was, we had a lot of fun. Dan and Monika were so proud to tell everyone at our first Christmas gathering that they helped make the candies.
We even learned a few things, too. For Dan and Monika, it was an opportunity to practice taking turns, because I could only dip one bon-bon at a time. For all of us, it was a good opportunity to practice patience. For me, it was a timely reminder that not everything needs to be perfect.
I have a batch of buttercream filling in the fridge waiting to be shaped and dipped. I might get them done in time for our last Christmas gathering; I might not. First, though, I need to pick up a few more jars of sprinkles.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. Sadie also writes a blog for the Dairy Star at http://dairystar.blogspot.com. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.