My Grandma Palmer passed away more than twenty years ago but I still miss her, especially at this time of year. She was a large in real life and larger than life kind of person who had the gift of making a person feel thoroughly loved.
She was also a lot of fun and Christmas at her house rivaled anything Santa could possibly produce. But even though Christmas was filled with presents piled to the rafters, cousins to play with, and tons of food, New Year’s Eve is the holiday I most associate with my grandmother.
When I was growing up my parents didn’t go out very often, but one exception was on New Year’s Eve. Several years in a row my father took my mother out to dinner and to the movies and my grandparents always babysat my three brothers and me. We had so much fun those years that we begged to sleep overnight at my grandparents’ house on New Years even if my parents didn’t have big plans.
My grandmother would make her home made pizza and we would play games all night long. At midnight, we would all head outside with pots and pans which we would bang as loudly as we could. My grandfather would blow his shockingly loud air horn and we rang in the New Year with a crazy amount of noise and merriment, before getting back to some more serious game playing until the wee hours of the morning.
A lot of my family’s holiday traditions have come from trying to recreate those memories, although we do spare our neighbors the noise overload. We always stay home and play games all night and for years we ate homemade pizza.
Since the Kitchen Genius and I both love to experiment in the kitchen, our homemade pizzas take many forms. Sometimes we do thin crust gourmet pizzas made on a pizza stone, other times we’ll made deep dish pizza in spring form pans.
But my family’s favorite pizza, hands down, is “Farm Pizza,” so named because when I was growing up my parents owned a farm in upstate New York and every single Sunday night we ate this pizza for dinner. The recipe actually originated with Grandma Palmer, who called it “hot pie,” rather than pizza.
Instead of using tomato sauce, Grandma used her home canned tomatoes. She would drain them in a strainer, saving the tomato juice to drink later. Then she would carefully pat a thin layer of tomatoes onto the crust with a fork.
The years before I started canning tomatoes, I didn’t make this pizza myself because I was certain the home canned tomatoes were an essential ingredient. But my mother has assured me you can used store canned ones if you drain them and give them a quick buzz with an immersion blender to soften them up a bit.
My grandmother would then sprinkle dehydrated onions on top of the tomatoes and cover the whole pie with shredded cheddar cheese. A sprinkling of dried oregano on top of the cheese and the pies were left to rise for 20 minutes so the crust would get nice and puffy with nooks and crannies.
My mother still makes this pizza for us every time we visit her new farm in Vermont and we all look forward to it each time. It has also been added to our pizza rotation for a tasty and nostalgic trip back in time. This New Year’s Eve, I plan to make Grandma Palmer’s hot pie and play Scrabble in her honor.
I wish all of you a relaxing evening of your own favorite holiday traditions and a wonderful New Year.