Growing up in the early 1970’s. my parents and I made an annual pilgrimage “south” a couple weeks before Christmas day, weather permitting.
We weren’t headed for a milder climate like, say, Florida. No, we were headed south to Lancaster. Yes, THAT Lancaster (pronounced LANK-a-ster by the locals, by the way, not LAN-cast-er, LANG-caster or any other way…); Lancaster, PA – the land of Amish buggies, quilt shops, all-you-can-eat smorgasbords, Dutch Wonderland, and a plethora of tourist-traps for those in love with “quaint”.
And away we go
In this case, we avoided the typical sights many others came to see and headed straight for — the mall; Park City Center to be exact. (The mall is still in existence and thriving.)
Officially opened in 1971 with 100 stores (currently 170+), Park City was not only a place to “shop”, it was a attraction in itself! To a kid used to shopping in “mom and pop” stores in small down towns in the Coal Region, it was as good as going on vacation to a magical wonderland.
The “road trip” began early in the morning because Park City was an hour-plus drive from our house (not even figuring in the time Pop spent circling the lot for a choice parking spot). I rarely slept much the night before this was a big deal!
A child’s wonderland
There were stores with names I knew and those I’d never heard of in my neck of the woods. But the coolest thing about Park City that made it so much fun were the “extras” you did not expect at a mall (Mall of America came along much later.)
Gems like an indoor skating rink on the lower level (later converted to a roller rink, now defunct and taken over by the food court), “TV pods” throughout the mall that showed commercials as well as live and recorded programming on a closed-circuit channel, and an indoor miniature golf course (never missed playing a round with Pop while Mom enjoyed “people-watching” from a bench) greeted visitors.
There was even “Funland” amusement park which occupied a chunk of the mall’s lower level and at one time or another featured a small roller coaster, bumper cars, go-karts, a fun house and a miniature Ferris wheel. I mean, this place was Disneyland to a coalcracker kid!
My favorite activity was perusing Spencer’s Gifts, a real thrill for a backwards just-turned “teen” at the time (some of their “novelty” merchandise was quite novel and the lava lamps fascinated me). Mom just liked wandering and people watching. But my Pop discovered the shop of his dreams on our very first visit – Hickory Farms.
The Hickory Farms at Park City was a storefront at that time, not simply a kiosk as it is today. We had never seen one or heard of it, so we wandered on in. In every section of the goodies there were samples; crackers. cookies. mustards. beef stick, cheeses, and dips.
As Mom and I examined the offerings, weighing if the item in front of us warranted a nibble or not my Dad was making his way around the store.
Every time I looked up, he was munching on something a few feet down from where I observed him chopping away just a minute earlier. As we took our beef stick and cheese brick to the check-out, Mom mentioned that we should decide where to grab supper on the way home. “Oh, I’m full” declared my Dad, “Couldn’t eat another bite.”
Mom and I just looked at each other and broke out in laughter. From that day on, whenever we went to Park City, we always teased Pop by asking him if he wanted to have dinner at Hickory Farms!
Once my Pop started to succumb to the ravages of Black Lung, our trips to Park City ended. I have not been there in decades. My Pop missed the trips, and he always loved the cheese logs and cheese balls from Hickory Farms.
One Christmas, when he was not feeling well, I gathered some ingredients, mixed them together, and concocted a cheese ball for Pop. Placing it on a platter surrounded with crackers, we sat at the kitchen table and laughed about the day he dined at Hickory Farms.
Pop left Mom and me 30 years ago this December 13th as Black Lung won the battle. In honor of Pop and the good memories, I am sharing my original recipe with you. Miss you Pop…
Tips for success
Cheese Ball (or Logs)Course: Appetizer, SnacksCuisine: GeneralDifficulty: Easy
Homemade cheese ball or log that can be customized to your taste; add bacon, nuts, or olives! Roll in dried herbs, like parsley or dill if avoiding nuts.
1 pound (16-ounces) finely grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese from a block (not pre-shredded which contains anti-caking ingredients). Allow to warm to room temperature after shredding.
1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, room temperature
2 Tablespoons finely grated Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon prepared ground horseradish (from a jar)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
About 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds for rolling the balls/logs in.
- Optional Additions of Your Choice
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup well drained and chopped salad olives (green with pimento stuffing)
1/4 cup bacon, fried crispy, drained and crumbled into small pieces
- Have the grated cheddar, the cream cheese, and the butter at room temperature.
- Add the grated cheddar, the cream cheese, and the butter to a bowl, mix these by hand with a wooden spoon, with clean hands, or with the paddle attachment and stand mixer until well blended and smooth (this is where room temperature ingredients matter!)
- Add the Romano cheese, the parsley flakes, the horseradish and the garlic powder and mix until well combined.
- Mix in your addition of choice, just until blended in well.
- Shape into a ball(s) or log(s) the size desired and roll in finely chopped nuts.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight for flavors to blend.
- Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving; serve with crackers of your choice.
- Wrap and refrigerate left-overs.
- The balls or logs can be frozen for future use.
- You can make the balls bite-sized for wonderful appetizers.
DID YOU MAKE THIS?
Snap a picture and tag @acoalcrackerinthekitchen on Instagram so visitors can see it!
Lori Fogg, A Coalcracker In The Kitchen
Sharing coal region comfort foods and nostalgia
Born and raised “a coal miner’s daughter” in Schuylkill County in the Anthracite Region of Pennsylvania, I love to share recipes and memories of home with fellow “coalcrackers” and celebrate our unique blending of Eastern European and Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and cuisines here in northeast Pennsylvania.