Happy Holidays and many Happy Returns in the New Year! Here is the Christmas card I sent out this year, although time took it’s toll, and I got about half-way through the list. So goes the season!
Our family has a tradition, every two or three years, to make old-world fruitcake. The recipe was handed down by my Italian grandmother, who got it from her German neighbor. We make it around Thanksgiving so we can “anoint” it, wrapping it in bourbon or rum-soaked cheesecloth, and putting up in a plastic bag in the cellar-way so it can soak up the anointment. It will last for several months, possibly years, you just need to re-anoint it every so often. Grandma mailed it to Dad in the service during the Korean conflict, and he hid it under his bunk, unwrapping it and stealing a slice every time he wanted to remember the comforts of home.
We gathered in my kitchen this year the eve of Thanksgiving. It takes every bread pan we can muster for this large batch. We use dried, not candied fruit. The walnuts have to be broken, not chopped, according to Grandma Bowman. She was with us until age 96, and somehow I feel her watching and laughing at us as we keep her traditions.
All hand on deck for chopping, braking and cracking of eggs.
A very tricky and tedious lining of the pans keeps Carol and the father-to-be busy in preparation
And now comes the mixing of all ingredients. Grandma would recruit my dad and a friend to stir the rather dry concoction, one to hold the pan, one to stir. Over the years we have lost a few wooden spoons that broke under the strain! She would add what seemed about a half a cup of orange juice. While her back was turned, dad and friend would dump enough of the beer they were drinking to make it actually stir-able. This has been carried on by the next generations, in memory of Dad….
Baked at a low temperature for 2-3 hours, then anointed a couple of times before Christmas. MMM………shared memories and old-world goodness for the holidaysHere is the recipe, in case you want to start your own tradition.
1.5 lbs real butter
3 lbs. dark brown sugar
6 lbs. various dried fruit, cut up
2 lbs. walnuts, broken
10 cups sifted flour
2.5 teas. baking powder
1.5 teas. baking soda
3 teas. allspice
3 teas. cinnamon
2 teas. mace
1.5 teas. nutmeg
2.5 teas. almond ext., optional
Fruit juice enough to make a stiff mixture
Bake at 300 degrees for 2-3 hours, check with toothpick.
Wrap cooled cakes (usually the next morning) in cheesecloth soaked in brandy or bourbon or spiced rum. Check after a couple of weeks to see if cloth needs to be re-soaked.
Warmest wishes in the New Year! Julie