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,
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:
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.
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.