A nod to Southern tradition

December 9, 2015

“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”

― Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

We shall hope these are good. If not, well, history's on my side.

We shall hope these are good. If not, well, history’s on my side.

Perhaps it’s a tradition hangover from Thanksgiving, but I had a notion to make fruitcake for Christmas gifts.

Now, know that I am 60 years old and have never made a fruitcake in my life. Mama used to make them, some years; I don’t have her recipe. But I do have the recipe for Eudora Welty’s White Fruitcake, which comes from that repository of history and tradition, the Junior League of Jackson, Miss., cookbook. It doesn’t get much more traditional than that.

And I love Eudora Welty (“Why I Live At The P.O.” is one of the best short stories ever written). So, if I was going to make fruitcake, it might as well be the one Ms. Welty espoused.

Straight from the Junior League of Jackson, the recipe reads thusly:

fruit cake recipe

I would make two notes to this. First, the version of the recipe upon which I happened did not call for separating the eggs and beating and folding in the whites, so I didn’t.

And that three hours’ baking time may well not be enough. The version of the recipe I had called for two hours, and the cake was positively doughy. I put it back in, baked it another hour, and then turned off the oven and let it sit overnight.

This recipe made four fruitcakes in 3 x 6 loaf pans, which is plenty of fruitcake to inflict on anybody. It’s a pound cake-ish batter, quite thick, and when you add your fruit and pecans — I used the two-pound tub of candied mixed fruit (cherries, pineapple, citron, ginger) from the grocery — it is pretty much full of fruit and nuts.

Fruitcake soaking on an open countertop....

Fruitcake soaking on an open countertop….

I soaked each cake, after baking, with about 3 tbsp of Knob Creek bourbon, which, in addition to the cup that’s in it, ought to make it alcoholic enough to add nicely to the Christmas cheer. I have the first four packaged, as above, and they’ll sit and ripen until Christmas; I’m debating whether to go ahead and make another four and add them to my treat baskets, just so more families can have the joy of saying “Oh, ick — fruitcake! Here, throw this away,” or can save it to give to Aunt Ethel next year.

Actually, I want to keep one and sample it after it ripens a bit, just to see if it’s fit to eat. But I can’t do that and still make more for Christmas, because they have to be made this week if they’re to have time to ripen. by the holiday. Perhaps I will just wait and sample this one, and make more next year if it’s any good.

Treat basket plan — actually, they’re treat stocking plans, as I did not find baskets I liked but did find cute, cheap Christmas stockings — are jars of preserves, apple butter, bacon jam, tomato chutney; perhaps a small crock of smoked salmon spread; a bag of homemade crackers; a bag of homemade Chex mix; and a small tin of pralines and toffee. I believe that’ll be something to please most everyone. I may make a few loaves of quick bread to top them off with; after all, I have these cute little foil pans.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get a notion, come help. I could use it.


4 Responses to “A nod to Southern tradition”

  1. cleavelin Says:

    And I love Eudora Welty (“Why I Live At The P.O.” is one of the best short stories ever written).

    The venerable email client “Eudora” (sadly, no longer in development and no longer used anymore) was so named as a nod to Ms. Welty and that story.

    That’s your geek trivia factoid for today. 😉

  2. Kath the Cook Says:

    Hi Kay – Your blog reader Kath from Florida weighing in here. While Eudora is certainly a literary legend, I think I would nudge you in the direction of not doing more fruit cakes. Your treat basket already sounds terrific – and lots of work – don’t add to it with iffy labor-intensive things that people are not generally inclined to like, i.e. fruitcake (don’t waste your time)

    ps – I make a mean homemade Chex mix too! generally part of my christmas treats and boxes as well. Happiest of holidays and happy cooking and baking. may all your many efforts turn out great. Isn’t it sad how so few people care to take the time anymore… 😦 ….

  3. I actually love fruitcake and I don’t understand or really appreciate the jokes make about this delicious holiday cake. Oh well, they don’t know what they’re missing. But then some people don’t really like a lot a sweet food. That is a drawback for me as well. Some of the cakes are too sweet. I offset mine a bit by using less candied fried, leaving out the raisins and adding more nuts. Great post. Thanks!

  4. […] Kay At the Keyboard – has a wonderful post about fruitcake and the post also includes Eudora Welty’s recipe. There are as many fruitcake recipes as there are lovers of the confection. The more common ones are Japanese, white, icebox, light and my favorite is the dark. Traditionally you bake them and soak the cake in bourbon, sherry some other achohol about 4 weeks before the first cutting.  To get you started on baking your own fruitcake. Here is a very simple recipe to follow. Bake it now and in about 4 weeks you will have a crowd pleaser! Let me know how it turned out all you fruitcake lovers. […]

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