After a long sabbatical, I plan to post new snippets with some holiday recipes from around the world. May your upcoming holiday preparations be interesting and fun. Stay happy and healthy until I write again.
I’ve decided to broach the subject of the dreaded Christmas fruitcake which I know is not all as popular as it was years ago. I’ll start by giving a brief history of the lowly fruitcake’s origins.
Fruit cake originated, it is believed, in ancient Rome in a much simpler form. It started to be called ‘fruitcake’ in the Middle Ages when spice, honey and preserved fruits were added to it. With the discovery of America and the sugars that were produced in the colonies and the abundance of fruits and nuts, the fruitcake began to come into it’s own. It was now possible to obtain inexpensive sweeteners and many different types of ingredients to add to the cakes. In the 1700’s nuts were often added to the fruitcake to celebrate good fortune and the abundant harvests. A great many different types of fruitcakes were produced, varying from light to dark, according to what type of fruits, flours, and nuts were used. Traditional fruitcake are soaked in liquor to flavor and preserve the cakes, with brandy and rum being most often used for soaking. Many fruitcake recipes have been handed down through generations of a family.
The following fruitcake recipe is at least seventy years old. It is up to you whether you want to further soak the cake with brandy by drizzling it slowly over the top until it is moistened:
1/2 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 lb. dried apricots- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied cherries- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied pineapple- chopped
1/2 lb. dark raisins
1/2 lb. walnuts – toasted and chopped
1/2 lb. pecans- chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup softened butter
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy
2 Tablespoons Curacao
2 Tablespoons dark rum
Measure out ingredients in advance for easier preparation.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Thoroughly grease two 8″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans. Dredge the fruit and nuts with flour and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift the remaining flour with spices, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternating with adding the liquor, spices, and vanilla. Fold the floured fruit and nuts into the batter. Pour into prepared loaf pans – put the loaf pans into a large pan of hot water and bake for about 2-2 1/2 hours or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool ten minutes and gently remove cakes to a wire baking rack to further cool.
When cool, fruitcake can be further soaked in brandy or rum by drizzling liquor onto cake and letting it seep in to moisten.
Wrap cakes thoroughly in plastic wrap. They can be aged for several weeks for flavors to meld. Good served with cream cheese or butter.
HAPPY BAKING AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.
For this post I don’t have to go far from home to remind me of the holiday season, of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m reminded of one day in the 1980’s when I toured the home of Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents who had owned an old Georgian Colonial on the other side of the Mystic River in Medford, Massachusetts in the U.S.A. I had saved up enough money for a down payment on a house and Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents old home was for sale. I toured the house with my husband and I was extremely excited by the prospect of owning such a wonderful piece of American history. I said yes to the real estate agents offer of a purchase price of only $42,000. Unfortunately, after adding up the costs of owning and maintaining such a large structure, we decided against the purchase and moved on to other options. At a later date, Tufts University bought the home for a huge sum and the house remains on the U.S. Trust for Historic Preservations’ registered historic homes list.
Lydia Maria Child was a author, abolitionist and activist who was born into a prominent New England family in Medford, Massachusetts. She was schooled in her early years in Medford Schools. She would often visit her grandparents at their home and wrote this song as an adult. Sometimes when the snow is deep and the air is chill, you can almost see the her sleigh coming across the old Craddock Bridge in Medford Square.
By Lydia Maria Child
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house we go:
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood,
and straight trough the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood,
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, ‘o, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for every one.’
Over the river, and through the wood,
now Grandmothers cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
May your holidays be as filled with joy as the young Lydia Maria Childs’ was on that long ago Thanksgiving Day.
In this salad I use the original beets as it lends a festive air to this Mexican style salad. If you want to use this for a dessert instead, leave the beets out. Fresh beets are best, but for ease of preparation canned beets may be used if thoroughly drained. Fresh fruit is preferred. Sugar is the only sweet added or it may also be served with a thinned mayonnaise. I like the following combination, but you can substitute a fruit ingredient for some other that you prefer.
1 3/4 cups orange sections or mandarin orange sections
1 cup apples, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 3/4 cups pineapple chunks
1 cup sliced bananas
3/4 cups roughly chopped unsalted peanuts
seeds from 1 medium pomegranate
1 cups cooked sliced or diced beets
1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts
Mix all fruit pieces together. Top with pomegranate seeds and chopped nuts
Sprinkle with superfine sugar (or granulated) or serve with thinned mayonnaise.
This makes a wonderful dessert or dinner starter served before a holiday meal. It is usually served as part of the Christmas Eve meal in some parts of the world.
In the United States, Veterans Day falls on November 11th this year. I am offering this little essay for your enjoyment. It was written by me when I was just a girl of twelve years old in response to a national contest sponsered by the Lodge of Elks in my hometown. I won the contest in the girls’ division and was very proud to have attended a ceremony where the essay was read by a group of veterans. The premise of the contest was to write a piece about ‘Old Glory‘ and how it related to veterans who fought in our many conflicts. I don’t know how appropriate it is to reprint here, but the sentiment then was heartfelt, and it remains that way to me today.
WHAT OLD GLORY MEANS TO ME
To me Old Glory means just what its famous name says, a flaming glory. It symbolizes the honor, pride, trust and independence of the United State of America. Old Glory is not just a flag. It’s more than that. It’s more than a piece of red, white and blue cloth made up of stars and stripes. Maybe it’s a beginning of a deserved liberty and feedom, and a country where the freedoms of press, speech, and worship have a chance to thrive. It describes a democracy in which no man shall suffer discrimination because of his color or race. To me it means the freedom of all people to choose religion, jobs, and politics.
Old Glory stands for a nation where no man shall be a slave, denied the education and support that every human being positively must have.
In my heart, it means a free land, in which dignity and authority are maintained to the fullest and best of the country’s ability. This great flag symbolizes our growing and striding country as a whole, a world power seeking peace which stands ready to defend the rights desired and cherished by every single person and American. It’s a nation in which important officials of the United States are voted on by the people and are responsible to the people and is not a dictatorship. Under a dictatorship our country might fall as other have done in past wars. It may also, to me, stand for the bloody battles of past conflicts. It means honor for the men and women who have sufffered in order to hold this United States together in time of crisis. Old Glory means much to me. It is the symbol of my country.
There is much more to this little essay that is lost in the 40 years since it was written and, of course, the conflicts in the Falklands, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others have taken place since that time. The sentiment was meant to honor our veterans, and I hope that this year you will not forget to remember the sacrifices that those who have served in our armed forces have made for us. These are men and woman who realize what their flag means to them. Please try to give our vets the honor they truly deserve for having given their all to their country.
Have a good Veterans Day.
About 2000 years ago in what is now the green lands of Ireland, the nation of France, and the United Kingdom, the new year was celebrated on November 1st. It was the beginning of the cold, dark weather in those lands. The winter season was synonymous with death. The Celts lived in those lands and they held the belief that on October 31st, the night of Samhain, that the ghosts of all the dead came back to life. n that night, the spirits played pranks and tricks, causing problems by damaging the harvest and reeking havoc in many other ways. Celtic priests believed that these spirits had come back to earth to ease the Druids’ attempts to predict the future.
To solve this, the Druids built large bonfires to burn sacrifices. The populace observed this day of the dead by wearing costumes in the form of animal skins or animal heads. Fortune telling was also done on this night. When the celebration was done the hearths were relit from the bonfires to usher in a mild winter season.
When the Romans conquer most of the territory in the year 43 A.D., they held rule for over 400 years. During this time two holidays were merged into one creating the Celtic celebration called Samhain. One holiday was Feratia, held in late October and the other was name after the goddess Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit. It is believed that apple bobbing originated with this goddess because she was symbolized by the apple. Today, children at Halloween parties held throughout the world bob for apples. The custom more than likely originated in those ancient times.
By the seventeenth century, Christianity had spread to Celt lands. Pope Benedict IV, in the 1600’s, deemed November 1st as All Saints Day, trying to replace the practice of the pagan festival of the dead with a Christian replacement. This day of All Saints was also known as All-hallowmas or, alternately, All-hallows. The night before it, which once was known as Samhein began to be know as All Hallows Eve. and, as the years went by the night became known as Halloween.
To this day bonfire are lit, in some places, on Halloween night. Children and adults alike dress in devilish costumes as ghosts, goblins, favorite characters and all manner of ghoulish, frightening dress. The populace in many nations delight in door to door trick-or-treating and festive, spooky parties. Little know the true meaning of Halloween night, but all delight in the ghastly activities.
Below is my recipe for Druid Stew. No one knows from whence this stew came from, but it could have come from the burning hearths somewhere in the land of the Celts.
2 pounds stewing beef, cut in cubes
5 potatoes, skin on, chopped into one inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cut up celery, slice diagonally
5 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
6 carrots, cut diagonally
1/2 cup beans (northern, pea bean, kidney) – canned
1 package onion soup mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups tomato juice
4 cups water
two bay leafs
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
In layers with beef at bottom, place all ingredients except tapioca , juice and water, one on top of another (in layers) into a deep oven-proof pot with lid. Pour liquid on top of dry ingredients and then sprinkle with tapioca. Put lid on tightly or use tin foil.
Bake at 350 degree for 4 hours. Do not open the oven door or take lid off pot. Do not stir the stew – leave the lid on.
Serve with puff pastry pumpkins, witches and ghosts made from Halloween cookie cutters and frozen puff pastry sheets, or with your favorite ghostly bread. (Puff pastry can be found in your supermarkets’ frozen department).
- Top ten Irish traditions for Halloween – SEE PHOTOS (irishcentral.com)
My Auntie Annie’s busiest times of the year were most major holidays. Not only was she busy during American holidays, but during most of the major international ones, as well. You see, she was a worker at one of the larger U.S. candy factories that made famous brand novelty and boxed fancy assortments. She had been working at the factory as a line worker and then a fancy chocolates dipper since the turn of the 20th century. She would trek off to the chocolate factory every morning for over fifty years, having started her job, in those very emancipated days, at a young and tender age. Her salary was well received by her struggling family, who also enjoyed the fruits of her labors – having access to chocolate bars, candy wafers, turtle clusters, caramel, and a full product line of tooth decaying, fattening goodies.
During the holidays , before Halloween, Auntie Annie would have us for a visit and when she was making candy gifts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Hanukkah and Christmas, she would often teach me how to make one of the famous candies that she worked to turn out on a daily basis at the factory. She would have huge pans of bubbling, boiling caramel. Chocolate would be melting at the front of the stove. Her idea of a double boiler was a spaghetti cooking pan with a very large bowl sitting on top. There were several of these crowding her old fashioned stove. She taught me how to make her famous Chocolate turtle clusters when I was about fifteen years old. During that visit, she also tried to teach me how to put the swirls on those fancy chocolates with creme centers, but I was a dismal failure and my attempts looked more like puckery little blobs. Those were fun and unique Autumn days and we, as little children (and all of our young friends, too), looked forward to our holiday boxes and tins of these delicious, sinful, ultimately perfect treats. I hope you like them as much as my family does.
ANNIE’S CHOCOLATE TURTLE CANDY
Equipment needed – large baking sheets, metal spoons, wooden spoons, measuring spoons, waxed paper, large metal bowls, double boiler, candy tins and boxes.
Cover baking sheets with waxed paper and grease lightly grease waxed paper with margarine.
42 candy caramel squares
3 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups dry roasted peanuts, unsalted (may use toasted walnuts, unsalted almonds, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts)
1 cup milk chocolate morsels or chopped milk chocolate bars
Arrange several nuts, in cluster, on baking sheet. You may use the amount you would like. Place nuts one inch apart or more from each other. Put caramel squares in the double boiler with butter and put over boiling water until completely melted, stirring constantly. When caramels are melted, remove from stove and stir in vanilla. Drop melted caramel in spoonfuls onto nuts until they are thoroughly covered. Let nut clusters cool to a firm, cool stage. Melt the chocolate and butter in double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour melted chocolate over nut clusters and cool them on the tray until they are firm. Do not chill in refrigerator as this may discolor the candy clusters. Put in metal tins between squares of wax paper and store in a cool, dry place.
We always loved making these with my Aunt Annie and no holiday was complete without them. I plan to get started on mine in a few days for future gift giving. I wonder if my aunt haunts the old site of the candy factory these days, wandering the halls, checking on equipment, chocolate mixtures, and trekking into the factory to check on the efficiency of present day laborers.
If they hear the sound of her shoes tapping around the chocolate vats, then they know that she’s on the lookout this Halloween season.
- Properly Preparing and Melting Chocolate (berries.com)