The day after Thanksgiving, I took part in a family tradition. It’s a family tradition that my dad made up, but all traditions have to start somewhere, and we’re up to two generations already. At this rate we’ll take over the world before long.
The tradition is fruitcake, and my dad mass produces it every year to give as Christmas gifts. This year he let me in on the secret. Part of the secret is almost five pounds of maraschino cherries.
The day began with fruit chopping. This is far from the first step, but it was the first step I was home for. Before this came going to the grocery store and spending what my dad calls an embarrassing amount of money on dried fruit and nuts. And before that came making the bowls.
That’s right. Every year he makes a set of matching fruitcake bowls. It’s part of the gift. My mom suspects some people throw away the fruitcake and keep the bowl. For shame!
I started chopping with this knife that’s older than I am. My dad brought it back from some country or other. Just like everything from childhood, it seems smaller now. Except in this case it truly is smaller, because it’s being sharpened into oblivion. My dad is a staunch believer in sharp knives, and this one is old enough it’s starting to show. The blade has an arch to it, and it’s not much for chopping anymore.
I found myself another very sharp knife, and before long we filled two big stockpots with fruit and nuts. Each got about two liters of orange juice.
We stirred it all up.
And let it simmer for three hours until it formed a healthy glop.
Fruitcake is mostly fruit, but you do need a little bit of batter to hold it all together. This batter contained no fewer than ten eggs.
Following a very scientific process, we mixed the fruit goop and the dough together until it looked about right.
The next scientific process involved filling up the bowls until they looked about right. While not exact, my dad does have standards. I filled my bowls too high and had to redo them.
One batch of dough and half the fruit got us 13 bowls. We baked them for an hour and a halfish, then did the whole process (minus fruit) over again, making 26 fruitcakes in all.
“But how will these cakes last until Christmas?” I hear you ask, counting the weeks frantically on your fingers. Well first of all, Christmas isn’t very far away, even though I haven’t done any shopping yet. And second of all, we drenched them in enough brandy to kill a horse.
Not even the bravest of microbes would risk it.
There you have it – the Baessler family tradition. Be very nice to me and you might get one next year.
My dad’s the one churning out the bowls and buying the fruit, though, so you have to be nice to him too.