Croxegnols update

I have just found two more references to “de croxegnols”.  One is in the novel When Alice lay down with Peter by Manitoba author Margaret Sweatman. You can read the reference here, courtesy of Google Books.

Croxegnols are also mentioned here in the book Red River runs north! a history of the Red River Valley by Vera Kelsey.

This Christmas I made them myself for the first time.  I used lard instead of shortening, and fried them in lard also.  They were very tasty, but they are filling!  There is definitely a knack to figuring out how much water to use, and the amount of baking powder makes them puff up so quickly that I found it hard to roll the dough thinly. Despite that, it is a tradition I want to continue, even if I end up eating them all myself!


For a change of pace, I am participating in Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. Today’s theme is Christmas Recipes.

Croxegnols are a type of pretzel.  All through my childhood these were a special treat at Christmas time, and I believe, but I could be wrong, that it was Mémère’s recipe.  Lately my brother has been making them and sharing with me.

Here’s a pic of my brother and his grandson with the finished pretzels.

Christmas pretzels

In the past I asked my Mother how to properly spell the word, but she wasn’t sure. A search on the internet didn’t produce any information that indicated the same recipe with a spelling that seemed at all similar.  It seems to be a type of bannock, but I’ve never seen a recipe for bannock that called for the pretzel shape.  Was it a French-Canadian tradition or a Métis tradition?  And how on earth did you spell it?

So you can imagine how excited I was when reading The last buffalo hunter by Mary Weekes, a book about Norbert Welsh, to find this passage:

“But de croxegnols.  There was something!  We made that always for the New Year’s celebrations, and on special occasions only.  It was a dough mixture.  Flour and fine tallow mixed with water.  First the dough was rolled smooth, then cut in squares.  Then each square was slit into five divisions, like fingers, and these fingers were twisted into fancy shapes, all criss-crossed.  Then these were thrown into boiling fat.  Some of them were very funny looking shapes when they were cooked, and they appealed to the fancy of the Indians. Many the good buffalo robe I was able to buy at a right price after my Indians had had a good feed on my wife’s de croxegnols!  De croxegnols were something very special.  I remember that out on the plains on New Year’s eve, the children used to get on top of the traders’ houses and run long sharp sticks down the chimneys and spear the fine brown croxegnols out of the pots of boiling fat.  They did this once to my wife, and what a surprise she got, when she saw that her fine brown croxegnols had disappeared.  She was beginning to believe that spirits were around the place.”

That must be it!  The recipe is similar , and the name fits.

Now why was I reading The last buffalo hunter?  Norbert Welsh is not a direct ancestor, but his second marriage was to Pépère’s first cousin, a Marguerite Hogue, who was the widow of a Jean Joseph McDougall, and the daughter of Joseph Hogue and Pelagie Turcotte.  The book is a fascinating oral history of life in the old North West during the late nineteenth century.

Now for the recipe.

4 cups flour

8 teaspoons baking powder

¼ cup shortening (or lard)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water (or as much as needed)

Mix dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening, until it is the size of peas and add water to make a sticky dough.  Roll out on floured board to 1/4” thick.  Cut into 1/2” wide strips.  Twist and drop into deep fat.  Let turn to a light golden color, then flip on other side for a second.  Drain on paper towels. Salt and serve.  Can be frozen and reheated.