Christmas Traditions – Fruitcake

Christmas is such a collection of traditions.  Most holidays will gradually develop traditions but I’m not sure there is one that is more prone to be “ruined” if those traditions get bent or left off for a year as Christmas.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a few of ours.

Christmas_TraditionsThis is a tradition that is likely to pass away when I and my brothers do.  I’m not aware of any member of the next generation that likes it.  So it seems unlikely that they will pick up the work neccesary to continue it.

It’s the Christmas fruitcake.

I’ve heard all the jokes.  I understand that most people have only had dreadful store bought fruitcakes that are suitable only for use as door stops.

This is not that kind of fruitcake.

Our fruitcake is a heavy, brandied fruit, spiced cake.  It takes seven hours plus to prepare, at least three hours to cool and several weeks to age.  After it’s finished it is wrapped in brandy soaked cheesecloth.  I then put it into zip lock bags and ship it to my brothers.  At this point in our lives, it’s their Christmas present from me.

It’s simply not Christmas without this tradition.  My mother made it for years until she just wasn’t strong enough to mix the batter.  The recipe is something she got from a neighbor before I was born.  I don’t know why she made it.  Is there a tradition in her family?  There’s good English stock on that side of my family tree, so it’s possible.  I never asked.

But every year, I set aside a day to do it.

It’s a tradition.


 

Here is the nitty gritty process part of the post.  Feel free to skip it if you like.

The process begins with three pounds of candied fruit mix, plus candied cherries and brandy.  The fruit soaks for several hours.

Most of the ingredients (flour and butter are also needed)

Most of the ingredients (flour and butter are also needed)

My largest bowl, kept almost exclusively for this project. This is almost four pounds of mixed fruits.

My largest bowl, kept almost exclusively for this project. This is almost four pounds of mixed fruits.

Butter is creamed, blended with brown sugar then mixed with flour. After that the fruit and brandy is mixed in. Very hard work because this is super dense.

Butter is creamed, blended with brown sugar then mixed with flour. After that the fruit and brandy is mixed in. Very hard work because this is super dense.

The pan. Greased AND lined with wax paper.

The pan. Greased AND lined with wax paper.

After five hours of baking and three hours of cooling, it's ready to be cut into portions. As you can see, there is only enough "cake" to hold the fruit together.

After five hours of baking and three hours of cooling, it’s ready to be cut into portions. As you can see, there is only enough “cake” to hold the fruit together.

Finally, wrapped in cheesecloth. In years past I would then drench the cheesecloth with brandy. A couple years ago I realized it was a lot easier to soak the cheesecloth FIRST, then wrap it. It will be re-soaked twice before mailing.

Finally, wrapped in cheesecloth. In years past I would then drench the cheesecloth with brandy. A couple years ago I realized it was a lot easier to soak the cheesecloth FIRST, then wrap it. It will be re-soaked twice before mailing.

 

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