ST. PAUL (WJON News) -- Holiday baking has been a family tradition in Minnesota that goes back several generations. There's actually a collection of cookbooks that records that rich history at the University of Minnesota.

Megan Kocher is the curator of the Doris Kirschner Cookbook Collection. She says Doris was a graduate of the university's Department of Home Economics. She donated her 1,500 cookbooks to the U in 1985.

She actually planned out her meals for her family a month at a time and did not repeat recipes for at least three months at a time.

Kocher says the cookbook collection chronicles how Minnesota was a leader when it came to holiday baking.

Minnesota is one of the places with the richest baking traditions because we have so much food centered here, we have Betty Crocker and Pillsbury and all of those things.

The collection also includes holiday baking pamphlets that were published by the gas and electric companies back in the 1950s and 60s.

They had a department of home economics at the electric and gas companies in largely the 50s and 60s to teach people to cook with their new gas and electric stove.

She says one main change in holiday baking over the years is the changes in fat source, which evolved from mostly butter and shortening or lard, to margarine, and a return to butter.

Kocher says for her holiday baking she has a favorite cookbook.

The Great Minnesota Cookie Book, which is a compilation of the Star Tribune Cookie Contest winners.  What they are trying to do with that contest is put something unique and pretty on the plate.  That's where I go when I want something "wow".

Kocher says the books themselves have evolved over the years from once being just text to now including photos of most recipes.

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The cookbook collection at the university has grown to over 6,000 books. They are available for the public to see at the library on the St. Paul campus.

Speaking of Betty Crocker, there is a musical now showing at the History Theatre in St. Paul titled "I Am Betty".  It runs through December 23rd.

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