January often produced a sombre mood in our home with the suspense and anticipation of December but a memory. School and church Christmas programs were history and our cousins had all gone home. Candy and caramel popcorn had disappeared. However, we looked forward to one last spark of excitement before we returned to school — January 1.
The flip of the calendar meant disassembling the Christmas tree, untangling lights and organizing gifts. By midmorning, Dad would announce our mile walk to Grandma’s house to watch the Rose Bowl Parade on her television. Some years we trudged through the bush in a foot of snow while other years, we walked on frozen ground. I remember nestling in front of Grandma’s television with a cup of hot chocolate while Mom worked away in the kitchen preparing our favourite New Year’s Day meal.
The special item on the menu that day was Portzelky, also known as New Year’s Cookies. It involved mixing dough and dropping pieces into hot oil. They could then be coated with icing sugar or white glaze but our tradition was to dip them into a caramel sauce of brown sugar and cream.
Children love traditions and we knew that each New Year’s Day would be celebrated in the exact same way. We would clean up the Christmas decorations and gifts, watch the Rose Bowl Parade and indulge in Portzelky. Surrounded by food and family, we welcomed each brand new year.
NEW YEAR’S COOKIES (PORTZELKY)
2 tbsp. dry yeast 2 c. warm water
5 tsp. sugar
6 c. flour (approx.)
1-3/4 c. milk, scalded and cooled
2 tsp. salt
2-3 c. raisins
2 tsp. baking powder
Soften yeast in 2 cups warm water and 5 teaspoons sugar. Let stand 15 minutes. Mix in 2 cups of flour to make a sponge. Let this rise in a warm place for about half an hour. Scald and cool the milk during this time. When sponge has risen, add all other ingredients and approximately 4 cups of flour to make a stiff batter. Let rise until double (about 1-1/2 hours) and fry in hot oil.
Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba