Christmas is a time of traditions and every year my family enjoys activities like skiing at Pomerelle, singing karaoke and watching our favorite “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” movie together. The kids are allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, which strangely happens to be their new pajamas every time. All while our special hand-picked mix of holiday music – including “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” and “It’s a Marshmallow World” – fills every room of the house.

But no tradition is ever complete without food.

In my family there’s a long list of culinary traditions, but if I had to pick my top three it would be: First, Dad’s Puerto Rican food. Second, Mom’s Pumpkin Pie… and third, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without my great aunt Sis’s raisin squares!

Mmmm Mmmm… And for those three dishes I say, “Bring on the Holidays!”

Photo © Jason Lugo

Aunt Sis's Raisin Squares

The Dough

1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup shortening
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
8 ½ cups flour

In a large bowl first blend shortening and sugar together. Then add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix and set aside.

In a separate large bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt together with a spoon.

Then take dry ingredients and slowly mix them into wet ingredients with a spoon. Once the ingredients get thick, sprinkle some flour onto a countertop and finish kneading the dough.

Preheat oven to 350°

The Filling

2 1/2 cups ground raisins
3 1/2 cups water
2 tsp vinegar (white)
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cups flour

Grind raisins in a blender or a food processor until minced.

In a medium saucepan add minced raisins and water and stir over medium heat. Then add the white vinegar and sugar.

In a small bowl mix flour with enough water to make a creamy smooth consistency then stir into saucepan. Turn heat to high. Bring to a boil STIR CONSTANTLY until thickened.

Once thick turn off burner.

Divide dough four times (into quarters). Sprinkle some flour onto countertop and roll out one quarter of dough to fit into large cookie sheet. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay out your dough on cookie sheet. Add 3 cups of hot raisin mixture on dough and spread out evenly. Then roll out another quarter of the dough and lay on top of the raisin mixture (like a sandwich).

Photo © Calman Lugo

First layer of rolled dough is set in the cookie sheet with 3 cups of the raisin mixture spread evenly on top.

Photo © Calman Lugo

Cover filling with second sheet of rolled dough.

Photo © Calman Lugo

Let the dough and filling cool for 30-45 minutes before cutting into squares.

Repeat to complete second cookie sheet.

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for 30-45 minutes before cutting into squares. Store in air-tight bags or containers to keep fresh. If you stack them on each other, separate them with a sheet of parchment paper.