Friday, December 23, 2016

"Fruitcake - Memories of Truman Capote & Sook (his cousin)" by Marie Rudisill, Capote's aunt - 1886 Fruitcake - Holiday Party Food!

Date I made this recipe:  November 8, 2016 (Election Day) for serving in December

Fruitcake – Memories of Truman Capote & Sook by Marie Rudisill
Published by Hill Street Press
ISBN:  1-892514-81-8; © 2000
Recipe:  1866 Fruitcake – Originally known as the "Lee Fruitcake" – p. 12-14

I know what you're probably thinking:  "Fruitcake?  Ew!!!!!  I hate the stuff!"

You are not alone but folks, I've gotta tell you, I am not in your camp.

We were Jane Parker Fruitcake people in our house.  Jane Parker was an A&P (grocery store) brand that we all loved.  And although A&P disappeared eventually from my home town, my late father, ever the letter writer, managed to track down an address for the company – pre-internet, no less – and inquired as to where he could get one.  He was given a mail order address.  Problem solved.

Then a few years ago, we were thrilled to find that  Amazon carried it and so I ordered several to be shipped to my loved ones.  But as these things go, Amazon carried the product for only a few years and now once again, Jane Parker has disappeared from our lives. Please come back, Jane.  Please.

As you might imagine, we are bereft.

And so there was only one thing left to do and it was to make my own fruitcake.

I approached this with just a tad of trepidation, mostly because the candied fruit cost so much that if I screwed it up, there went all that money down the drain.

Besides, would it be as good as Jane's?  Oh, we could only hope.

Now then, even though fruitcake is decidedly unpopular at this time of year, (it saddens me, it really does), I have oodles and oodles of cookbooks containing fruitcake recipes, as well as fruitcake cookie recipes, but I passed on cooking from them because I had my eye on one book and one book only:  Fruitcake – Memories of Truman Capote and Sook.  I consider this to be the granddaddy of fruitcake cookbooks (possibly the only fruitcake-focused cookbooks) as it contains 23 recipes, surely the largest "gathering" of fruitcake recipes known to man?

Although the vast majority of recipes are variations of cake + candied fruit, there are a few variations, some of which gave me pause, such as "Chocolate Fruitcake" – p. 20-21 or a "Sugar-Frosted White Fruitcake" – p. 37-38.  I don't know about you, but I cannot get past the "ick" factor of chocolate and fruitcake.  I cannot.  And since I've never had a frosted fruitcake, I felt I had to pass on that one as well as I'd have no point of comparison to my unfrosted and beloved Jane Parker.

There are also a few recipes here for booze-soaked fruitcakes and even one for a "Fruitcake Flaming" but I have to tell you, and I cannot believe I am saying this, I cannot:  I moistened my fruitcake as directed with bourbon and I shall never do so again.

Never.  Why?  My fruitcake was over-bourboned (if that's even a word which Spell-check tells me it isn't!).  It's not like I doused it with the entire bottle (because what a waste of good bourbon!), but simply moistened periodically the cheesecake I wrapped it in as directed, from the time I baked it to the time I served it a monthly later.

Weeks later, when I finally had a tiny taste, I was about knocked out by the alcohol.  Whoa.  And this is coming from me who enjoys her stronger alcohols like gin, cognac and bourbon.

Is this why people like their homemade fruitcakes so much?

The alternative to soaking the fruitcake in booze was to use grape juice, but that proved to be tricky.  I had split my fruitcake in half and the half that I moistened with grape juice started to develop a bit of mold at the bottom of the cheesecloth and so I had to throw it out.

Obviously, I don't have my fruitcake techniques on lock and load yet.  But I tell you who does and that is most southerners, like author Truman Capote, and his cousin, Sook Faulk, and this book's author, Marie Rudisill who was Capote's aunt.

In fact, come to think of it, most of my southern cookbooks are where I can go to find fruitcake recipes.  And they all say the same thing which is to make it months in advance, wrap it in cheesecloth, then moisten with booze or fruit juice, but mostly booze. Hmmm.  At any rate, this fondness explains why there are 23 fruitcake recipes in this book. 

As to Truman Capote, I hope the majority of you recognize his name and his books (and movies) such as In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's.  I think I read In Cold Blood while in high school, long before the movie of the same name came out.  I did not read Breakfast at Tiffany's but I understand that the storyline was tweaked (sanitized?) when the movie, starring Audrey Hepburn, was filmed.  Not that this matters as I loved Audrey in that role.  (Mickey Rooney though, is another story.  He played a very stereotypical Chinese man – what? –  in the film and caught flack for that ever after.  File that under:  What Were They Thinking?)

So apparently this book is a compilation of recipes that Truman enjoyed that his cousin, Sook, made for him, and that his aunt wrote about.

As to this fruitcake, it was originally known as the "Lee Fruitcake," as it was part of southern General Robert E. Lee's family recipe collection.  In my opinion, this fruitcake comes closest to approximating the Jane Parker recipe I loved so much.  And I tell you, it was delicious, at least until I "ruined" it by pouring bourbon on it.  I may never get over this folks, never.

One thing I found while attempting to stock up on the candied fruits early and often, is that at least in these parts, they don't start appearing on shelves until just before Thanksgiving.  How then, are these southerners able to make their fruitcakes so many months in advance?  Are they just better at stockpiling the candied fruit for one season to be used the next?  Inquiring minds want to know.

You should know though, that I had no difficulty sourcing the bourbon.  None.  Although the next time I make the fruitcake– and there will be a next time – I may use even less than I did this time and might also switch it to brandy or cognac.  The possibilities are endless.

For safety's sake though, I may refrain from intentionally setting the fruitcake on fire to achieve a "Fruitcake Flaming."  (That was the exact title which makes me wonder if they purposely avoided calling it a "Flaming Fruitcake?")

By the way, I purchased this book in as soon as it was released in 2000, but sometime between 2000 and 2016 this book went missing.  Now granted, I have a lot of cookbooks and every once in a while I misplace one, but it's usually temporary.  Not so with this book.  So this year, I finally found it and bought it online (again!) and it is now staying on a shelf where I can see it at all times.  Meanwhile, and I am not kidding, I made some party food from a Martha Stewart cookbook and am saddened to report that "Martha" is missing.  And I don't know where "she" could have gone but I have looked in all the usual places of where I put books I am blogging about and so far, nothing.  Huh.  Can this be a trend?

Anyway, here then is the Capote Family fruitcake via the Lee Family, in all it's glory.  This makes one very large, and very heavy, fruitcake, but one I hope you enjoy throughout the holiday season. 

1866 Fruitcake – fills one large tube pan
½ cup candied lemon peel
½ cup sliced candied orange peel
1 ½ cups finely cut citron (Ann's Note: it comes already finely diced)
1 ½ cups candied pineapple
1 cup candied cherries
1 ¼ cups dark seeded raisins
1 ¼ cup white raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup sifted enriched flour
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 ½ cups enriched flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
¾ cup grape juice

Combine the peels, fruits, nuts; sprinkle with ¼ cup of flour and mix well.

Thoroughly cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and beat well.  Sift together 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, salt, and spices; add alternately with grape juice.  Pour the batter over the floured mixture of peels, fruits, and nuts.

Pour into a large tube pan until ¾ full.  Do not flatten batter.  Bake in a very slow oven at 250F for about 5 hours.  Remove from pan and pack in air tight tin with a double layer of cheesecloth soaked in bourbon.  Ann's Note:  Nuh uh.  Do this at your own peril!  If you use grape juice, keep and eye on the cheesecloth to avoid the slight mold problem I experienced.

Bake at least 3 months before Christmas.  Do not let the cake dry out and keep lacing it with bourbon.

And one final Ann's Note:  This "adult" fruitcake should probably be consumed at home during the evening hours as it may impair your driving or worse, give people the impression that you like to get an early start to your holiday celebrations.  Unlike my beloved Jane Parker fruitcake, this is not exactly fit for breakfast consumption and that is a major bummer.   

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