CORTLAND - Jenna Governor says her grandmother is usually going nuts this time of the year.
But anyone who knows Carmella Hicks also knows that can be a good thing.
Hicks' nut roll is among the things that have the people in her life looking forward to the holidays.
Carmella Hicks displays a completed nut roll at her home in Cortland.
Her late husband, Carlos, used to tell her it was the best he'd had.
"He said, 'I don't think anybody puts as much nuts in as you do,'" she said recently in her Cortland home.
The generous and delicious filling is what she starts the recipe with, sometimes the night before.
1 1/2 pounds ground walnuts
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick oleo, melted
3 eggs, beaten
In a sauce pan, bring 1/4 cup milk and 1 teaspoon sugar to lukewarm. Remove from heat, add 1 envelope of dry yeast, mix and cover.
4 cups flour plus 2 sticks oleo
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 pint sour cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
Blend flour and oleo for dough. Add sugar, sour cream, egg and yeast mixture. Divide into four parts and roll. Raise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Put one pan on top rack of oven and another on the bottom. After 15 minutes, switch them in the oven.
"Your dough is waiting for you to do the nuts," she said, adding that you can grind them and put them in a plastic bag.
Hicks still uses a written recipe to make this specialty.
"I don't want to make a mistake," she said.
The top of the card says the recipe comes from "Mom D" - that's Hicks' mother, whose last name was D'Andrea and who got the recipe from a co-worker at Packard Electric.
"And then it became a tradition for every Christmas and every Easter," Hicks said.
Hicks said both of her sisters make the nut roll now, too, but for awhile, it was her mother's thing. They didn't start making it right away, Hicks said.
That sure changed. When she wasn't working, Hicks sometimes baked until midnight.
She's worked for St. Robert's Catholic Church in Cortland and American Greetings, for which she put the cards in the stores for 14 years.
Now 74, for "something to do," Hicks is working 20 to 25 hours a week - mostly evenings - at Walmart, so she has to plan ahead. The nuts might get done late at night.
The dough, which has to rise for about two hours after the filling is rolled in, will be done during the day.
Making the nut roll is a considerable time investment, really - in fact, she said she didn't realize how much time her mother took to do "all this stuff" until later in life.
"It does take time, but anything that's good ... like those clothespin cookies," she said. "I make lots of cookies, and it takes time."
She might make one batch or she might make four batches in a day - that's 16 nut rolls.
"It makes a nice gift to give somebody - wrap it in foil and wrap a ribbon around it," she suggested.
Recipients include friends, the beautician, the cancer survivors' group and the "girls at work," who also beg for her to bring fudge.
She made 12 rolls to grace the cookie tables at a family wedding. As far as other family goes, her daughters enjoy it, but they prefer that she makes it.
The grandkids - she has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren - sometimes require a little growing up to appreciate the taste.
"Grandkids are funny about the nuts," Hicks said.
"I didn't like it when I was little," granddaughter Governor, now 28, said as she took a slice of the spiral for herself from the lace-covered silver tray.
She said her grandmother cooks for all the holidays, making her own pasta and pizzelles.
Hicks added that she makes pasta fagiole and that she doesn't mind cooking.