Like so many people this year I’ve been feeling quite a bit of Christmas anxiety. I have done a pretty good job of buying all of my Christmas gifts online, but the decorations still aren’t up and I did not do any Christmas baking. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas is around the corner, but it is.
Just as I was moping around, our son’s girlfriend stopped at our doorway with a beautiful gift of cookies and a pointsettia, and I thought it was time to get my act in gear.
My anxiety starts with my mother’s health and how we will involve Grandma in our small Christmas. Of our two children in Alberta, one has announced that he will be staying put to keep going with his athletic training, even though we know there will be no competitions for him this year. The other one is driving home across Canada along the same route that we travelled back and forth this summer. Her employer has now shut down and her University is still online, so we will see what is next for her. I am constantly checking the travel weather forecast along her route, and I suspect that she has slept in her vehicle to avoid hotels. That’s not something that I could manage in a Canadian winter! It’s a lovely drive in the summer, but the winter would be so much more challenging.
I am reminding myself today as I fret about my Christmas purchases, that they don’t have to be perfect – That we give presents at Christmas to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men. The Wise Men travelled a great distance to give Jesus gifts to show respect and love to their newborn King. Now I have no religious education, but I’m trying to say that these gifts were meant to show love and honour, and so as long as we choose our gifts with love and care within our means – and try our best, we should not wear ourselves out with stress about choosing the exact right gift. The fun should be in the giving and receiving of gifts no matter what they are, and just being with whoever we are lucky enough to be with, enjoying the day if we can.
A few years ago my wonderful sister in law shared my late mother in law’s recipe for Dark Fruit Cake. I really appreciate this, and enjoy making, eating and proudly sharing this fruitcake. This recipe was actually part of one of the best Christmas gifts we’ve received, a bunch of family recipes!
This Fruit Cake recipe gives me a way to make something that honours and remembers someone that I and my children didn’t have the privilege of knowing, and is now an important tradition for my family. I am making fruitcake today, even though I should have made it back in August, faithfully, basting it with brandy and then freezing it to enjoy at Christmas. I don’ t mind sipping a bit of brandy along the way. Somehow this pandemic put my Christmas mood into a funk, and put my planning on hold, but I’ve had enough now of this pandemic – haven’t you?
I hope that my mother in law would be proud to see her recipe posted, and I hope I get to share it with my family – and I’m thinking I will have to mail some to Alberta pronto!
This recipe for Dark Fruit Cake is not difficult to prepare, but it requires loads of fruit, cheesecake, brandy and 4 and a half hours of time in your oven – so today is a great day, because I have nowhere to go and it’s cold outside. Also, you have to soak your fruit overnight in brandy and grape juice before you make the cake – so be prepared.
DARK FRUIT CAKE INGREDIENTS:
1 lb raisins
1 lb white raisins
(Not knowing what white raisins are, I used different types of raisins to total 2 pounds – I used Thompson, Golden and Sultana)
2 lb. mixed fruit
(This is generally a mixture of candied mixed fruit peel and candied red and green cherries, but there was no peel to be found this year, so I’m using just the cherries this year)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup grape jelly
Concord grape juice and brandy (combined)
The recipe originally called for 1/2 cup grape juice and brandy combination – but 4 pounds of raisins and fruit is a BIG BOWL of fruit – so a half a cup or a cup won’t cover the fruit – I used 3/4 of a liter of grape juice and 2 cups of Brandy to soak the fruit initially, and then I saved the rest of the juice and brandy (from a 750ml bottle) for soaking the fruitcake after the baking – I may have sipped a bit though)
1 cup butter
6 eggs (well beaten)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
DARK FRUIT CAKE PREPARATION:
The evening prior to making the fruit cake, place the raisins and fruit in a large bowl and cover with brandy and grape juice. Place in the refrigerator overnight and stir every so often to distribute the liquid.
*Use 1/2 cup of flour to toss and coat pecans – set aside (I could only find whole pecans this year, so I crushed them with a potato masher and chopped them a bit)
Mix the dry ingredients (the remaining flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice) in a separate bowl and reserve.
Cream room temperature butter with an electric mixer until light. Add sugar & cream well, add jelly and eggs. Mix well.
Now I’m not sure why, but every time I turn the electric beaters on I find Max suddenly under my feet. I don’t think it’s the brandy.
Add dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, stirring until well mixed. Then add fruit & nuts.
Pack well into non-stick sprayed foil lined tins – bake at 275 degrees F for 4 1/2 hours.
This recipe is for one 6 lb. cake., but I usually make 4 loaf tin sized cakes.
Put a pan with water in oven with cake for moisture. ( watch as you might have to add more water.)
Let cool and remove from baking tins and foil. Wrap in cheesecloth and baste with grape juice and brandy. (Baste cloth also) Baste and turn cakes over a few times per day, and place in refrigerator for a few days. store in freezer or refrigerator. I typically make this in the summer time and then freeze, but this week I will be wrapping the fruitcakes, and basting them liberally daily – placing the cakes in the refrigerator until Christmas Day.
I will try not to sip any more of the brandy in the meantime.