Sunday, December 27, 2015

National Fruitcake Day

Who knew?  Thanks to the talented and hilariously funny Sandra Boynton I now know.  A whole day dedicated to fruitcake.  You either love it or you hate it.  And most everyone I know falls into the latter camp.  But not moi!  I love it.  I've had some that were better than others, of course, but I refuse to be a hater.  (The Ex-Ex is a hater... but I keep hoping I will win him over.)

I've been a fan of Sandra's cartoons for a long time.  We even decorated Son #1's nursery with a wall paper border featuring her adorable critters.  When I saw the above post on Facebook this morning (yep, I stalk follow her), I reposted it for all those fruitcake haters out there to add comments. Instead, lo and behold, who do I hear from but my Cousin-in-Law in the great orange state of Tennessee.  (Go Vols!)  She falls into the lover category, too, just like me.  And it gets even better.  She has a recipe that belonged to my Daddy's sister, my Aunt Helen, her mother-in-law, and CIL even went to the trouble of digging it out of a recipe box so she could send it to me.  That is cousinly love, friends. Cousin-in-Law even found a photo of my beautiful Aunt Helen.  She did not like having her photo taken and I did not have a single one of her-- not until today!

Daddy's family is from High Point, but moved to Spruce Pine before he and the baby sister were born.

This is how I remember my grandparents best- (Papa is holding my nephew Jerm, I think)

Papa (George) and Grandma (Christine) had nine children, including one who died either in childbirth or shortly thereafter.  (My Cousin K will correct my Bell Family facts if I get something wrong.) Daddy Tommy was second to last.  A cutie pie for sure, n'est-ce pas?

I have a few family photos, thanks to Mama Mildred who let me go through a huge tin of photos and take the ones I wanted.
Here is one of me sitting on Mama's lap (check out the tummy-  I still have it!), with Grandma and her mother (I think?), one of my cousins and, I am sure, a beloved dog.  (Everyone seemed to get that dog-lover gene except me.)

When my parents moved back to Spruce Pine, after my dad's stint in the Army (Mama Mildred ran away to join him and get married in Louisiana at the tender age of 15- in this photo she is probably about 19 years old), they built a house right next door to Papa and Grandma and I spent a large percentage of my first 18 years at their house.  I loved them so much.  Papa George owned a small hosiery mill and gave his employees a fruitcake every Christmas.  We always got one, too.  Maybe that's why I love it so much?

Cousin-in-Law also found this photo, taken in Florida, where my Aunt Helen lived, and where my grandparents had a second home.

So, in honor of National Fruitcake Day and my Aunt Helen, I will pass on her favorite recipe for all you lovers out there.

I have no idea who Mrs. Harvey is.  The recipe looks as if it was cut out of a newspaper.  Here is the original recipe.  My modifications are listed at the end**.  In years past, I have made Fruitcake Bars and Fruitcake Cookies.  Both are very tasty... if you are a fruitcake lover.

Mrs. Harvey's White Fruitcake
makes 5 pounds cake

5 large eggs
1/2 pound butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 pound candied cherries (1 pound = not quite 2 cups)
1 pound candied pineapple
4 cups shelled pecans
1/2 ounce vanilla extract (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon)
1/2 ounce lemon extract (3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon)

Chop nuts and fruit into medium-sized pieces; dredge with small amount of flour.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add well-beaten eggs and blend well.  Sift remaining flour and baking powder together; fold into egg and butter mixture.  Add vanilla and lemon extracts; mix well; add fruits and nuts, blending well.

Grease 10-inch tube pan. Line sides and bottom with heavy brown paper; grease again.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Place in cold oven and bake at 325˚F for 3 hours.

*Cake may be baked in two  3-inch loaf pans for 2 1/2 hours.

**I hope that Mrs. Harvey and Aunt Helen aren't rolling over in their graves right now, but I made some changes.  I used dried fruit --cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapple (it is very sweet) instead of candied fruit. Next time, I think I will use dates instead of the pineapple.  I put the fruit and nuts in a Ziploc bag with about 1/4 cup of the flour to "dredge" them. While playing true confessions, I have to admit that I  misread the ingredients and put in 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla and lemon extracts instead of 1/2 ounce.  I tasted the batter, however, before adding in the fruit and nuts and it tasted good. I buttered two loaf pans and did not line them with heavy brown paper.  I remember my mom doing this once upon a time, though.  Not sure why.  She used brown paper grocery store bags. I did line the bottom of my pans with parchment paper, though. Maybe the Ex-Ex will at least try it this time?

It is certainly full of goodies.  I tried a bite while it was still warm.  Yum.  The dried blueberries taste really good.

"People who like fruitcake will probably like that" he said with a strange look on his face.

Bon appétit to all fruitcake lovers, especially Cousin-in-Law and all the remaining Bells.

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