fruitcake

The Fruitcake

Fruitcake

I love fruitcake! But I am betting you don’t.  Well, today is the day dear reader.  I am going to change your mind about fruitcake.  Before you exit out of this blog article, just give me a chance to win you over.

 

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

We all have our stories to share about the dreaded fruitcake.  You know the kind, it comes in a decorative tin or wrapped neatly in some holiday plastic wrap.  The cover of the tin has some idyllic Christmas scene of a horse and sleigh with happy riders decked out in winter garb.  They are probably “happy” because they threw their fruitcake out of the sleigh two miles back or like Hansel and Gretel, chiseled pieces out and threw them out along their route to make their return easier.  Perhaps they used it to defend themselves from would-be sleigh robbers.  One good hit to the head and your down for the count!

takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’

Fruitcake has taken a beating.  Folks use it as a derogatory expression like,” She is a fruitcake.”  They also joke and say they use the fruitcake as a “paperweight” or a “doorstop”.  My sister-in-law Brenda told me a story about a friend who always received a tinned fruitcake from her grandfather every Christmas.  This friend was diligent in making sure the fruitcake got eaten up each year.  One year she completely lost track of the fruitcake but found it a year later on a storage shelf.  When she opened the tin, there lay the dried up, shrunken fruitcake with a thin layer of mold on top.  As a memorial to her grandfather, she kept the fruitcake in its tin and each year proudly sets it out on her table as a reminder of grandpa and his thoughtfulness.

the defense calls its first witness

According to Julie Douglas, a podcaster, writer and editor at HowStuffWorks.com, in her article [Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake] fruitcake lore has the Egyptians placing their version of fruitcake in the tombs of loved ones.  Romans admired the fruitcake for its ease of transport and durability.  Even going so far as to take the fruitcake into battle with them( if that’s not a testimony I don’t know what is!).  Julie continues on to say that during the Middle Ages the fruitcake evolved with preserved fruits, spices and honey. Finally, in the 16th century and further on into the Victorian era the fruitcake graduated to candied fruits, nuts, and alcohol.  However, at one point in the 18th century, it was outlawed.  Click here for more fruitcake history.

All in the family

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

I remember the first fruitcake I saw.  It was in a red round tin.  The cover had a scene on it from “Currier and Ives”, but when I looked inside, it was this solid, corn syrupy mass with pecans and red candied cherries jutting out as well as an unappealing smell.   It seemed to get bullied around on the table by the rest of the Christmas goodies until it had its final resting place up against the wall.

My grandma Syens at some point decided to have a crack at her own version of fruitcake and it soon became a family hit.  Grandma only made fruitcake at Christmas, and the fruitcake didn’t last long.  Always displayed in a prominent place, this fruitcake never got shoved to the back of the table.  You could eat it plain, slather it in butter, and/or top it off with a piece of cheddar cheese(seriously readers, you cannot go without cheese on much in Wisconsin!)  Just imagine biting into soft, delicately moist brown bread.  The slight crunch of pecans and the chewy citrus peel, raisins and candied cherries.  Y U M! Pair that with a cup of coffee or tea, and YOU are the height of Christmas sophistication.

As grandma got older and her arthritis prevented her from extending her arms, she would ask me to help with her Christmas baking, and making fruitcake was one of my assignments.  She used two different recipes, one was a homemade date brown bread and the other was from Pillsbury.  Her secret ingredient at the end was to take the fruitcake loaf and give it a good brandy soak in cheesecloth.  It made it extra special (wink)!

The tradition continues

Grandma Syens’ tradition of making fruitcake at Christmas continues on with me.  The recipe is very easy to follow.  I find it relaxing as I stir together the ingredients and fold in the fruit and nuts.  It is also a great time to reflect on memories of Christmas past.

Fruitcake ingredients can be hard to find and definitely expensive.  Out of curiosity, I totaled up the cost of the base bread mix($6.98), the candied citrus peel($2.49), candied cherries($9.96) (green/red), pecans($2.38), brandy(.50), raisins(.44), electricity($2.00), my time ($2.00), plastic wrap($1.00), and tins($1.00). To my astonishment, it came to $28.75!   So if someone gives you a homemade fruitcake, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY!  Lots of love, time and some serious money went into making the golden citrus, candied, nut beauty.  In fact, during my “summer freezer- thaw -outs”, I have found misplaced loaves of fruitcake in the freezer and I immediately text Brad about the “lost sheep”.  To which he replies “YES!”

I rest my case

Well reader, what say you?  I have taken you on a brief history of fruitcake.  Tempted you with my play by play of eating fruitcake.  Extolled the virtues of the fruitcake.  I sure hope that you will give it a try.  Find someone with a good recipe and ask to try a slice.    Maybe you’ll run into me and I will have a spare slice on me!

There are also places you can order fruitcake from like Beatrice Bakery Co. in  Nebraska.  They have a good reputation and a great following.  Be sure to check out their youtube video.

 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration and wish you the happiest of New Years!

 

Michele

 

 

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