For me, favorite foods are often strongly linked to childhood memories. These sugar cookies are one of those foods. My Grandma Casey was a good cook. She didn't do anything fancy, it was strictly down-home, southern country style cooking. She lived most of her life on a farm and had a large family to feed and next to no money to do it with. So foods were usually things they could grow or make themselves. I remember having a large garden every summer. I remember growing and butchering hogs and chickens. I remember milk cows and grandma making butter to sell, as well as clabbered milk for biscuits and thick cream for homemade ice cream. There were special foods that we had for family gatherings, whether it was just a weekend visit or for big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Sugar cookies was one of the special things grandma would make when the kids were coming to visit. My second memory about making sugar cookies comes from my youngest nephew, Ethan, when he was small. He loved to come to my place and make cookies. He had special cookie cutters he liked to use and his favorite was in the shape of a bone. He'd strew flour everywhere and we'd laugh and have a great time. I can never make sugar cookies without thinking of both he and grandma. Although these cookies taste like the ones she made, there is still a certain savor that only a grandma's hand can give that is missing. Please note, this recipe makes a whole lot of cookies! Also, although you can substitute shortening or butter for the lard, it just won't have the right flavor. And one other thing, these cookies are best made one day and not eaten until a day or two later.
1/3 cup lard
2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup cream or evaporated milk (grandma's recipe calls for "top milk")
1 tsp. vanilla
6 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Cream the lard and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the eggs, cream and vanilla. Next work in dry ingredients. It will make a very stiff dough and you may end up needing to use your hands to work it all in. Divide the dough into 3 parts. Roll out each part about 1/4 inch thick, sprinkle the top with sugar and pat it gently into the top of the dough. Cut into circles or any shape you like. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees until slightly puffed and just barely beginning to brown around the edges. Do not overbake. Cool slightly before removing to finish cooling.
Sometimes grandma would put a frosting on these cookies. Here is her recipe for that:
1/4 cup soft butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup top milk (cream)
3 cups powdered sugar
Mix all together, beating until smooth. If you want, you can add a drop or two of food coloring to make it pretty.