Family Secret recipes...

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Sous Chef
Sep 16, 2004
I dont have that many to share but here is one story...

My aunt made a really good basil-vinegar. A friend of hers tried to make it but couldnt and she asked her the secret. It turned out that she used Heinz's distilled vinegar since it is made differently from all the other vinegars (I forget exactly how).

Anyhow the lady goes back and makes the basil vinegar; puts it in really nice glass bottles and starts selling it for $20 or $25 per bottle...

My aunt was so pissed! I think she still is to this day.

So what family secrets do you have?
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About the only other family secret was the one for egg cookies. The secret was to use hard boiled eggs and to shave them down and then into the batter. This recipe I pulled from website, and is an example:

Easter egg cookies

This recipe uses hard-boiled eggs in the mix. The dough is rolled out and cut into shapes. You can use these cookies as egg holders for the Easter table, by making a wreath or round shape with a place to put the decorated egg.

Decorate an egg for each person at the dinner, and include their name, and you have a wonderful "place card."

Mix grated lemon rind with 10 tablespoons sugar. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar mixture gradually. Cream together until fluffy. Beat in egg. Put hard-cooked eggs through a ricer and add. Stir in flour. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Flatten into cakes and dip into egg white, then in mixture of sugar, cinnamon and nuts, to taste. Bake in ungreased pans at 325 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes. If using cookie cutters, roll dough between waxed paper, not too flat, and chill several hours for easier handling. If the children help, plan for a long session. Roll out several small batches ahead of time so that the chilled dough can be worked with when the other dough becomes soft and needs to be rechilled. Have a bowl of flour handy in which to dip cutters occasionally, and toothpicks to help loosen dough if it sticks. Work on waxed paper. Never use flour on the dough. Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick.

So I guess it's not really a secret anymore...
Turkey Dressing Recipe

Sorry folks, I just threw it out last week... You see, I was decluttering... and I had this hand-written recipe that I had kept since my early marriage days, back in the late seventies... I finally gave up and decided I would NEVER again make it so I chucked it...

All her married life my mom struggled to duplicate her mother-in-law's famous turkey dressing recipe and never succeeded, according to my dad who passed in April 1980. His mom had passed long before my mom and dad were married, so some time in the forties...

It was a very time consuming recipe, it involved roasting the "abats" as they are called in French (the neck, gizzard and all the other stuff that "they" put in the bag inside the turkey,) then creating a broth with it all, (slowly simmering them in water for 2 to 3 hours) removing the small amounts of meat from the bones, using a small quantity of mashed potatoes (made with butter and cream of course) and using cooked ground veal and ground pork (again small quantities, aobut 1.5 cups each cooked) then trying for almost 30 years to figure out the spice combination: allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, S & P of course...

:cool: eh?
Spaghetti Sauce

My mom makes fantastic spaghetti sauce. Among other things, the most unique thing (I think) that she does is not browning the ground beef before adding it to the sauce.
my mother could never make grandma's (her mother) spaghetti sauce the same way. Years later I figured it out: You have to mince that garlic finely! Dont just toss it in there...

I figured out another thing about a lot of grandma's italian cooking. She would add anchovies to the sauce. I figured it out sort of by accident when I realized how "homey" my spaghetti sauce tasted.
jpinmaryland, your posting with the hard boiled egg cookies is so unique; do you happen to know the origins (what country/culture it started in) of that recipe?
the recipe my great aunt uses is either an old polish or slovak recipe. she is from Silesia part of Poland, at least for a time, and so the recipe might be from there.

The internet recipe I posted is not necessarily hers, it was just something I found on quick google. It is very similar, I'll have to get her actual recipe.

In her recipe she shaves the hard boiled eggs across a grater and so these little crumbly bits of hard boiled eggs go into the cookie. Making for a rather unique texture/flavor.

I'll google it a bit and then ask her the next time I see her.
One thing I've learned about "family secret" recipes it that there is always something in the recipe that doesn't get put down on the recipe card!
If there is a recipe card. Often the recipe is in someone's head and they can't give you amounts becase they just "eyeball" it.:ermm:
turkey dressing recipe...

Claire said:
Charlotte, most French-Canadians I know would have sage in the dressing as well.

Unless, as in my family and extended family, NO ONE likes sage - so they always omit it from any recipe... that one we knew about from way back...

Funny thing is, I married an English Canadian and he also does NOT like sage, which suits me just fine!

Thanks, though, that could have been it...

I like the comments about there being NO recipe cards, no written-down recipes and people eye-balling it for quantities, that is alll so true! My reaction to that: in the early years of our marriage I tended to measure EVERYTHING very accurately and drove my hubby nuts!! LOL He is very thankful that I have relaxed... and I started a notebook in December 1980, where I write long-hand all the recipes that we love as a family, and as the years go by I add the variations...
I'm still terrible about not being able to come up with measurements, much to the chagrin of many of my freinds who want to know how I made this or that. Backtracking and trying to turn it into a recipe is a bear. As much as I love my (pretty large) collection of cookbooks, my tendency is to look up 2-4 recipes for a dish I want to make, then do my own version of a combination. Old family "recipes" are funny, too, in that quite often my extended family likes my version better and I'll have a hard time remembering what I did to make it different from mom's, aunts', memere's, gram's. Usually it's something small -- I put garlic in my tourtiere; I put thyme in my pea soup. I've tried to write it all down, but in fact most in my generation aren't that much into cooking, and the younger generation ... well, forget it!
Claire, take notes to help you remember when you find a tweak you like.
Taking notes is a geat idea. The cookbooks belong to you so go ahead and write in them. I'll note if I changed something or how well we liked it or what I would do different of I were to make it again.
I always write notes in my cookbooks, as I often will add things to the book's recipe to make it even tastier. I will also note whether a recipe is a "do again" or not. I even note if the prep time is longer than the recipe states. I'm pretty fast in the kitchen, but some of the prep times given are just unrealistic. I like watching Rachael Ray's 30 min. meals, but I don't think I could in a million years ever prepare one of her meals in the 30 min. time frame. Also, it's true what others of you said about not knowing specific measurements. I kind of eyeball things and just guesstimate (?) quantities.
Oh I just remembered another one, sort of. My dad said an old timer told him the secret to steaks and lamb chops was to rub garlic directly on the bone part. He said the garlic diffuses through the bone and into the meat...

I dunno about that but my friends said that steaks always tasted different at my house.
Claire, I find that a number of my cookbooks are borrowed from friends and family - so I don't write in them, but I use sticky notes and place them near the recipe I want to make notes about. I know it takes more time to try and remember after the fact - and sometimes it's impossible - so as I am doing my changed, I write them on the sticky notes...

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