It Takes a Fruitcake to Know a Fruitcake

I realize that a great many people despise fruitcake. I’ll admit it’s an odd sort of “treat:” made with fruit and nuts and lots of booze. The Crankee Yankee and I love it, but we don’t love all fruitcakes. In my opinion, the best fruitcakes are the ones made by grandmothers and monks.

Why? Grandmothers as a rule love to bake. My own grandmother used to start her fruitcakes in October. They were made with chopped fruit; citron usually; cinnamon, molasses, currants, nuts (usually the *butternuts from the tree on her property) lots of brown sugar and butter, and booze, usually rum; and more. Once made, the cakes needed to “cure,” which meant that they were covered up with kitchen towels and kept in a cool place. There they hibernated until the week before Christmas.

The best fruitcakes are the ones that are moist and redolent of rum or brandy. The monks seem to have a good handle on the “booze-a-fication” of fruitcakes. As I said, not everyone is keen on fruitcake, but it’s a favorite of ours. Personally I like a slice of fruitcake with a side of sharp Cheddar cheese. It goes wonderfully with a hot cup of tea.

Happy 2019, everyone! Hopefully, this will be a good year for us all (with or without fruit cake).

*Butternuts are one of the most delicious nuts I’ve ever tasted. My grandparents had a butternut tree, and it was my job to pick up the fallen nuts and crack them open. They are probably the most time-consuming nut in the world: the nuts are encased in a sticky greenish paperish cover, which leaves your fingers incredibly gluey. Then you have to crack them open (I usually used my grandfather’s hammer).

The butternuts look like cracked-open walnuts, and you have to patiently pick out the nut meats with a lobster pick. It always seemed like hours to prize the nuts out of their sticky homes, but they were worth the time and trouble. They taste a lot like walnuts, but with a buttery taste. They are absolutely heavenly in cookies or fruitcake.

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