Mothball Cookies (From The Book "Christmas In Dairyland")


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Mothball Cookies

by LeAnn R. Ralph

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These little cookies are tasty treats. They are also sometimes known as “tea cakes. ”

Mothball Cookies are a part of the story “Good Things Come in Small Packages" from my book *Christmas in Dairyland* -

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped nuts

    Combine ingredients. Chill one hour. Form into small balls. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour. Roll in powdered sugar while still warm and again when cool.

    © 2007 LeAnn R. Ralph

    ********************* LeAnn R. Ralph is a newspaper reporter in Wisconsin. She also is the author of books about growing up on a small family dairy farm 40 years ago. The Midwest Book Review calls this series of books “Highly recommended reading!” You are invited to sign up for the twice-monthly newsletter from Rural Route 2 -


    From the story: Good Things Come in Small Packages

    For the last ten minutes, my big sister, Loretta, had been scrubbing the kitchen table. First she squirted yellow dish soap on the oilskin tablecloth, and then she went to work with a wet dish rag, moving it around in circles and back and forth and back and forth, making sure that she also reached all of the corners.

    The dish soap smelled like lemons. That’s what it said on the bottle. It had been a long time since my mother had made lemonade with fresh lemons, not since last summer, so I couldn’t really remember if that’s exactly the way lemons smelled.

    When my sister finished scrubbing the table, she ran more warm water over the dish cloth, and then she began wiping off the soap.

    Rinsing the table, it seemed to me, took more time than scrubbing it, even though the table wasn’t dirty in the first place. How could it be? After our Sunday dinner of pot roast and carrots and mashed potatoes and coconut cream pie for dessert, as usual, the table had been cleared and thoroughly wiped.

    Once my sister had finished cleaning the table for the second time in as many hours, she got out the big bowl she always used for mixing cookie dough and set it on the counter.

    Even before Loretta took the bowl out of the cupboard, I knew how she intended to spend the afternoon.

    When the kitchen table received an extra scrubbing on a Sunday afternoon in December, it meant only one thing: Christmas cookies.

    Now the only question that remained was what kind of cookies?

    Each year Loretta made a variety. Dozens of sugar cookies cut into shapes—stars, Christmas trees, bells, holly leaves, Santa Claus and reindeer that were frosted with pink or green or white or yellow or red icing.

    My sister also made cookies with a date filling. And some little round ones called ‘moth balls’ which had walnuts in them and were rolled in powdered sugar.

    Then, too, there were the rosettes. I found it fascinating that you could dip a piece of metal into batter and put it into hot oil and a little while later, out would come a golden brown, crispy rosette that looked like a snowflake.

    And I mustn’t forget the little round ones made out of coconut, powdered sugar and sweetened condensed milk that were dipped in chocolate, although the coconut balls weren’t really cookies—they were more like candy.

    By the time Loretta finished baking Christmas cookies every December, the big gold-colored tin canister with the red cover was full. For eleven months out of the year, the big canister stayed in the pantry and wasn’t used for anything. But at Christmas, it was taken out every couple of days to fill the cookie jar that sat on the kitchen counter.

    I always wondered how one family could eat so many cookies. My mother claimed that it was because I usually ate enough for three people.

    “Don’t eat too many of those. You’ll get sick, ” she would say in an attempt to curb my appetite. Or, “If you keep eating those, you won’t like cookies anymore. ” Or, “If you fill up on cookies now, you won’t be hungry for supper. ”

    And yet, I had noticed that my father ate his fair share of cookies, too, and I couldn’t see that it had hurt him any. Dad said cookies helped him stay warm when he worked outside during the winter the same way a cob of corn every day helped my pony, Dusty, to stay warm.

    After my sister got out the cookie bowl and set it on the cupboard, she rummaged around in the drawer until she found her favorite spoon—the stainless steel one with a wooden handle that had been a gift from our milk hauler. Every year the milk hauler left a gift for our family. Mom said it was ‘a token of appreciation for our business. ’ Whatever that meant.

    Besides the spoon, one year the milk hauler had given us a carving knife. Another year it had been one of those cheese-shaver-cake-or-pie-server things. I especially liked the spoon, however, since it played such an important part in baking cookies.

    “What kind are you making?” I asked, as I sat down by the kitchen table to watch.

    Sometimes Loretta started with my favorites—rolled sugar cookies. Not only were they covered with frosting, but they also were the biggest of all the cookies she baked. If Mom said I could have two cookies, I always picked the sugar cookies.

    “I’m going to make spritz, ” Loretta replied.

    This was one I had never heard of.

    “Spritz? What’s that?”

    My sister reached into the cupboard and pulled out a box.

    “I just bought this on Friday, ” she said.

    When I had arrived home from school Friday afternoon, Dad was in the barn because one of our cows was having a calf. And of course, whenever there was a new a calf, I had to see it right away. And that meant I hadn’t been in the house when Loretta came home from work, which explained why I hadn’t seen the box before. My sister usually came home from working at Dunn County Electric around five o’clock.

    Loretta opened the box and pulled out a device which looked a little like Dad’s grease gun except that it didn’t have a flexible hose for the grease fittings. A grease gun, Dad said, was an important piece of equipment on a farm. “If I don’t keep my machinery greased, then I’ll burn out bearings. And when I’ve got hay to bale or oats to combine or corn to pick, I can’t afford to waste time on burned out bearings, ” he had explained after I used the grease gun one time to grease the hinges on my pony’s stall door and had left it in the barn and he had spent an hour looking for it.

    After the stall door incident, Dad had pointed out that oil would be better for hinges, so of course, I used the oil can the next time Dusty’s door hinges squeaked. And then Dad had spent an hour looking for his oil can.

    The grease gun and the oil can were just two of the reasons that my father constantly stressed the importance of putting things back where I had found them.

    My sister held up the contraption she had brought home on Friday while I was out in the barn with Dad. “This is called a cookie press, ” she said.

    To read more sample chapters and to order the book *Christmas in Dairyland* visit -


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