Anniston residents, Ann and her husband Jim, drove to Brooklyn, Ala., where the McCreary family has been celebrating a holiday meal together for more than a century. Even though, the weather was a little chilly, they thoroughly enjoyed the event.
Ann was a Blair before she married and is a member of the McCreary family, by marriage, through her father.
The couple drove to Brooklyn, which is about 15 miles southeast of Evergreen in Conecuh County. They joined about 80 other family members at a pavilion built for the reunion on family property.
The setting is idyllic, according to Jim.
“It is in a clearing in the woods, and the spot has split-rail benches, a stone fire-pit, and Bottle Creek running nearby,” he said.
At the reunion, Ann realized that she had met about half of the family members throughout her life, and she enjoyed meeting the others.
“It didn’t seem cold at all,” she said. “The sun was warm, and we were all so happy to be together.”
Now that she has experienced the event that she had always heard about, she is eager to return next Thanksgiving.
“Before now, I had always celebrated Thanksgiving with only my own family, but this was wonderful,” said Ann.
To prepare for the occasion, Jim and Ann spent a day baking her late mother’s Christmas cookies. Eating them is also a tradition, one that Ann remembers doing since childhood and throughout her adulthood since her mother, Nell, died only two years ago.
“It took Jim and me all day to make the cookies,” she said. “Jim chopped maraschino cherries and candied pineapple, and I broke up five cups of pecan halves into small pieces for the recipe.”
Ann and I recently walked together for exercise. Afterward, I drove to her home to sample the cookies. (A columnist does what a columnist has to do.) The treats are similar to fruitcake cookies – a mixture of nuts and fruit baked into dough made with brown sugar. The texture is chewy except for the nuts, which gives them crunch; and the flavors are balanced.
Ann and Jim were glad to share the recipe. Not all of us can join in a centuries-old tradition, but we can all bake a batch of Christmas cookies.
Here are Nell’s Christmas Cookies:
Mix one cup light-brown sugar, 1/3 stick of butter, two eggs, one T rum, 1 ½ t of baking soda dissolved in 1 ½ T of milk, ½ t cinnamon, ½ t nutmeg, and 1 ½ cups of self-rising flour.
Also, mix together in a separate bowl five cups of broken pecans, ½ pound of chopped candied pineapple, ¾ pound of chopped maraschino cherries and ½ cup of self-rising flour.
Combine the two mixtures. Mix well until the cookie dough has coated the fruits and nuts thoroughly. Place teaspoon-size amounts in an oven preheated to 325 degrees on a lightly greased baking sheet two inches apart. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cool on wax paper or aluminum foil. Store in airtight containers. These cookies freeze well.
“Mother used to crack her own pecans for the cookies,” said Ann, who had bought her pecans already shelled. “That took her another entire day.”
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