Monday, November 23, 2009

Colors Not Found In Nature

"It's fruitcake weather!" I can't make these cookies without thinking about A Christmas Memory, the short story by Truman Capote. Sweet, wistful, and wonderful; one of those stories that is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. So good when done well. And this one surely is. There is an old television production of it starring Geraldine Page that is excellently done. It used to air every year around the holidays, and hopefully still does. As good as that teleplay is, it's the book that always grabs at my heart the hardest. To read the words is to be rewarded. Rewarded by the elegant writing, tangible descriptions, sweet and tender sentiment... I will read it again this year. Like fruitcake, it's tradition.

My Mom used to make these cookies when I was growing up, but it's a big job these cookies. I started making them the year I got married. I'll never forget it: I bought 6 lbs. of pecans when I needed 6 cups. We put pecans in everything that year. This year I added flour in when it should have been sugar. But it all worked out. It always does, one way or another.

Twelve dozen cookies later and I was finally done. The music on the stereo came to an end and the house was suddenly quiet. I leaned against the counter, closed my eyes and bit into one of the cookies... in that one moment was the Christmas of my childhood. I heard bells chiming. Turns out they really were! There's a church nearby that plays bells every hour. It was five o'clock. My senses and memories converged, just for one perfect moment. Every once and a while that happens. Or maybe it happens all the time and I only notice it every once and a while.

Not everybody feels tender toward fruitcake. Even cute little bite-sized fruitcakes like these. I've come to love these cookies over the years, but even so, this is probably the last time I will make them. The last time I make them with glazed fruit that is. For some time now, I've been wanting to make them with dried fruits instead, and now my pantry and freezer are finally devoid of those glistening and weirdly translucent fruits. Next year I change things up a bit... no more green cherries!

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies
Adapted from: page 52 in the Bless This Food cookbook, Faith Women's Guild, Faith Lutheran Church, 1973

1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
4 eggs
3 Tblsp milk
1 cup bourbon
4 cups flour
3 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves
1 lb each: candied red and green cherries
1 lb glazed pineapple
1 lb candied citron
2 lbs raisins
6 cups pecan pieces

Beat together the brown sugar, eggs, milk and butter until very creamy: then stir in the bourbon. Sift together 3 cups of the flour, spices and baking soda. Add to the egg batter and beat. In a very large bowl, coat the fruits and nuts with the remaining 1 cup of flour. Pour batter over fruits and mix until fruits are well covered (this can be difficult, get help if needed). Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet or use mini-muffin tins (with or without liners). Bake at 275° for 20-25 minutes or until they start to turn a nice golden brown on top. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans to finish cooling on racks.

My Notes: These need to age at least 4 weeks for best flavor. Make these the weekend before or after Thanksgiving and they will be perfect by Christmas. This recipe yields 10-12 dozen. The drop cookies will take slightly longer to bake than the mini-muffin tin ones as they tend to be larger. The paper liners will initially stick to the cookies quite a bit but will release better once "aged". These cookies keep for months in an airtight container and still taste great. People either love these or hate them, so always ask potential recipients if they like "fruitcake" or not first!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin

1 comment:

  1. I love your write-up and memory on this post and agree whole-heartedly on everything! I hope I am the recipient again this year!!! hint hint!


Take a moment to say "Howdy!"... I'd love to hear from you!