As a kid, I have a very very fond memory of kringlers. And as I learned more about them, my love for them grew.
Brief background (I’ll try to keep it brief)…I was born in Michigan. We moved to Florida when I was about 4 1/2. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back to Michigan all that often. Only for major events (weddings, family reunions, 100th birthdays, etc). There was one special trip that we made at Christmas and I remember vividly the kringler tin. To my recollection, the kringlers were always kept in a round cookie tin. Most likely a tin that came with store bought cookies (like those little shortbread cookies) in it. All packages like that were reused: butter dishes, cool whip containers, and so on.
Now, I’m not sure if kringlers are only made at Christmas or if I only got them at Christmas.
But to me, kringlers are synonymous with three things:
- – my Great-grandmother (my father’s mother’s mother)
- – Christmas
- – something that ties me to my Danish-ness
Now, anytime I was every around kringlers, they were always already made. I never was present for the making of them. And over the years I often asked how to make them (grandmother, great-aunt, other aunts and such) and they would give me an expression and explanation that they were time consuming and a lot of work. That they were “tricky” because you don’t just follow a recipe. They are kind of like that thing that no one wants or knows how to make but everyone loves to eat. To my knowledge, there are only about 4 or 5 people in our huge family that know how to make them. And I’m pretty sure only 2 of us make them regularly (well, I’ve just begun, but I will be making them regularly). I did see on Facebook that another one of the great-grandkids learned how to make them this year so I don’t know if she’s going to make them regularly or not.
And by “huge” family, I mean like Great-grandma had like 8 kids, two of those kids had 7 each, plus the others had kids too, and they’ve had kids, and we’ve had kids…yeah…huge. I love it.
That didn’t stop me from wanting to know how.
I am an American girl but I still long for being able to have ties to the cultures of my ancestors. I have always been this way.
Another brief history, my Grandma (Dorothy, my dad’s mom) and my Great-aunt (Lilly) are sisters. That’s a given, right? But just to clear things up, I don’t really think of my Great-aunt, Lilly as my Great-aunt. She is another Grandma to me. So I’m tired of speaking in technicals, and I’m just going to call her like I know her.
It’s kind of a long story, but Lilly is my sister’s Grandma. Yup, you read that right. Anyhoo, when I was a kid, Grandma (Wymer, as we call her) and Grandpa Wymer would spend their summers with us when they came from Michigan to visit. I have fond memories of playing Uno on the couch for long periods of time with Grandpa and smelling delicious bread that Grandma would make. What I wouldn’t give for just one more day of those memories in real life.
Ok, I’m back from memory lane and I had to get a tissue.
Alright, let’s get to the point here. As a young adult, I had a few years of Grandma and Grandpa Wymer LIVING here that I could have had many opportunities to learn how to make kringlers. Did I? NO! I would say, I’m kicking myself for it now. But I’m kind of glad for the way it worked out.
After we lost Grandpa Wymer in 2005 (?), Grandma moved back to Michigan. OH NO! How will I learn to make these stinkin’ cookies???? Oh yeah, that’s right. Grandma came to visit for a few months with one of her daughters (and her husband), (Toni’s aunt and uncle). And wouldn’t you know a few years of this would go by before I could actually get my act together to really plan a kringler lesson.
Nevertheless, I did it. One day in early 2013, I was visiting with my Grandma Davis (my mom’s mom, who lives here), Grandma Wymer was there visiting too. I told her she wasn’t allowed to go back to Michigan without teaching me how to make kringlers. So it was set, I called my sister to get her schedule and we made a date!
To start off the day, Grandma handed me this…Any of my recipes that go in my recipe binder get typed up so they are all the same. Not this one. I was so excited to get this from her, she probably thought I was a big looney. It’s most likely no big thing for her. But to have her handwriting on my favorite recipe is something I will never type up for any recipe book.
I was way more excited about it than my sister, and way more into it too. But I was glad she was there to spend the time and see how they are done.
When we started, Grandma gave me an overview on what we were going to do. Then she basically just dictated from there. If I did anything wrong, she was quick to tell me. She is a feisty old lady. Quiet, but feisty nonetheless. It is definitely one of the highlights of my life. Tradition being passed down to a younger generation. I don’t know how many times she’ll be able to make the trip from Michigan to Florida (it’s a long trip). And I hate to say it, but I don’t know when the next time we will make it to Michigan will be.
Left to right: Toni (my sister, Grandma Wymer (Toni’s Grandma, my Great-Aunt Lilly), Aunt Sue (Toni’s Aunt, Grandma’s oldest child), Me and Ayden. And that’s how the kringlers cool. No cooling rack, just sheets of wax paper on the counter.
It is a day I will never ever forget.
The true test came when it was time to make them by myself. Keep in mind, it was only my 2nd time making them, ever. I learned from Grandma in February and then didn’t make them again until Christmas Eve, 9 months later! Needless to say, they went off without a hitch! It was almost like I had made them a thousand times before. (And yes, I did buy a round tin from Hobby Lobby…see top picture)
From Christmas: Anyone who knows anything about our kringlers, it is very rare to get one whole. Usually you are just eating the pieces as they are fragile and break just being stacked. This was the last kringler in the tin and it was whole. Very rare!!!
There was also something else so magical about making them. Not only were we going to have kringlers, but when I made them, my parents were here with me. As they are every Christmas. We were ahead of schedule (for once) and not rushing around so they got to just sit and visit with me. It felt so right to be in the kitchen, baking, and visiting with family. I often say I was born in the wrong era. I would love to have been in the time where all you had to do was bake.
Another first, my dad (who’s family this is from) got to have a kringler fresh from the oven, still warm. He told me that in all of his years growing up around kringlers, he had never had one still warm from the oven. And that warmed my heart. I felt such a connection to my Grandmothers’ and my Great-grandmother that day yet we were hundreds of miles apart.
I must say, now that I know how to make them. I understand why I was given the reaction from my aunts and grandmothers. It isn’t just a recipe that you can say, here are the ingredients and measurements. Mix, cut, shape, bake. And it’s funny that in baking, exact measurements are necessary for the science part of it. But with these, it really is a little more about the texture of the dough. Add a little more wet if it’s too dry, and add a little more dry if it’s too wet.
Anyway, I’ll try to see if I can do a play by play when I make them this Christmas.
Now I thought I had a picture of my Great-grandma. But the picture I am remembering must have been my mom’s However, I did find this picture from (as you can tell) a very long time ago. But that is her, in the front in all of her cuteness. I am so very glad I got to know her and even into my teenage years.
Do you have any family recipes that make you feel nostalgic?