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"A Plague of Secrets"
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SO, ABOUT FRUITCAKE...
20 November, 2011
A P.S. to yesterday's entry. Walt, who is much more persistent in his Googling than I am, found that awful play. This is the write-up it received, the final sentence being the most telling:
OK...so it's not about apple pies or even apple butter, it's still the most terrible show I've ever seen, even if it was "one of the biggest hits of its era." Harumph.
But, yesterday I talked about the play "Fruitcakes." Today I thought I'd talk about the real thing.
The director of the play started the show last night by giving a bit of history about fruitcake.
Apparently the first recipe for fruitcake was from ancient Rome and it lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices and preserved fruits were added.
Fruitcakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Recipes varied greatly
in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the available ingredients as well
as (in some instances) church regulations forbidding the use of butter, regarding the
observance of fast. Pope Innocent VIII (14321492) finally granted the use of butter,
in a written permission known as the 'Butter Letter' or Butterbrief in 1490, giving
permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruitcakes.
The legend, of course, is that there is really only one fruitcake in existence and that it just keeps getting passed from person to person, because nobody likes it. I did find a note, however, that fruitcake made with real macerated and candied fruit, nuts and made densely and soaked in high alcohol percentage brandy or rum lasts reportedly at least 130 years. I don't know if anybody ever tasted 130 year old fruitcake, however!
I happen to be one of those weird people who likes fruitcake. There was a time when I actually made it during the holidays. But I really don't like the crap that gets sold by catalog houses these days (I didn't, for example, much like the cake they served at the show last night). My fruitcakes, as I remember them, were heavy on candied fruit, but NOT citron (which I hate, in all its colors!), nuts, and when formed into a cake and baked, then wrapped in gauze and soaked with liquor--brandy, bourbon or rum, I believe. Then it should be packed away for at least a month, adding more liquor from time to time to keep the cake moist (it's not true that it should be the consistency of a door stop!). When Christmas rolls around, cut a slice and serve it with hard sauce.
Hard sauce is just a mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and whiskey, beaten to a perfect consistency and allowed to mellow. Add it to your home-made fruitcake and you will change your opinion about fruitcake.
Of course I won't be making fruitcake this year. Walt doesn't
like it and with only two of us in the house, we know who would be eating it all...and I
don't need another excuse to eat something that I shouldn't.
PHOTO OF THE DAY