filling the empty nest with food
You know how, back in the really old days, a person’s reputation could get dragged through the dirt by inappropriate or unconventional behavior or even worse, by a possibly-inaccurate rumor about said behavior? And, once that good name had been disgraced, there was no way to restore it to its original purity? (By the way, have you ever noticed how many satisfying synonyms there are for disgrace? Besmirch, dishonor, disrespect, slander, taint, debase, defile, disparage. On and on. But, try searching for an antonym to “disgrace” and tell me how many you find.)
Fortunately, those days are past for most of us in the U.S. Unfortunately, they’re in full swing for the much maligned Christmas fruitcake.
I never understood the jokes about using fruitcakes as doorstops. Possibly because my family’s traditional fruitcake was delicious: as much moist, dark cake as candied fruit and nuts; heavy and heavenly aroma of cinnamon and cloves; plenty of butter for richness; and whiskey in the batter to liberate the flavors of the raisins and candied cherries. Plus, the cake had been soaked in brandy for several weeks prior to Christmas. It was a cake to gobble up; never to throw away!
December is National Fruitcake Month. Who knew? Once December arrives, try and find yourself a tasty fruitcake (or, better yet, make my family recipe below) and set it out in the middle of a holiday party! And then spread the word that the nasty rumors are false.
Mix together in saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature:
3 cups raisins
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 pound butter
3 tsp. cloves
3 tsp. cinnamon
Beat lightly in a bowl or mixer:
To eggs, add cooled mixture above, plus:
1/2 pound candied fruit (citron, candied green or red cherries or pineapple–any combination is fine)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1 cup whiskey
Mix well, but not too much.
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Add flour and soda to liquid mixture, and mix until combined.
Grease several small bread pans and pour in cake batter. Bake in a slow oven (250 – 275 degrees) for about 2 hours. Cool in pans before unmolding.
This fruitcake is best made a month or so before Christmas, so you have time to wrap it in cheesecloth that’s been soaked in brandy. Put the cheesecloth-wrapped cakes in a cooler in your basement, and pour a bit of brandy over the cakes from time to time before the cheesecloth dries out. Slice thinly and enjoy the rightfully restored honor of a special holiday treat!