When I was a child, my North Carolina grandmother used to make us a fruitcake every year using pecans from the tree in her yard (among many other things). It would arrive in a round metal tin, wrapped inside in an old cotton kitchen towel that had been saturated in bourbon. Needless to say, it was tasty. I’m pretty sure she used those candied fruits but I don’t remember them being those radioactively bright colors that we see in the stores now in the produce aisle.
Grandmama’s fruitcake was dark, dense and very moist, not to mention boozy, and it reminded me of the fruitcake that Queenie and Buddy made in Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. That fruitcake does not exist in the store; you have to make it.
Last year, in a quest to find fruitcake that tasted like my memory of fruitcake, I actually bought one online from some monks who bake and sell them for income. Contrary to the testimonials, not to mention the price, the taste didn’t do anything for me and I ended up throwing it out rather than eat inferior fruitcake.
Some friends and I were chatting on Twitter this week about fruitcake and someone posted a link to Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake which has more ingredients than anything else I’ve ever made in my life. I love Alton, though, and the quantity of dried fruits and rum appealed to me. So yesterday on the way home from work, I stocked up on a ton of things from dried cherries to apple juice to brandy and rum, and made the recipe.
Oh. My. God. It smelled amazing. The batter on the edges of the bowl tasted amazing. Although it’s supposed to sit for a few days/weeks for flavors to meld properly, I couldn’t help myself and cut a small slice – and almost moaned in ecstasy. THIS is fruitcake, my friends: dense, moist, rich with plump flavored fruit, and with the wonderful zing of the brandy and rum used in and on the cake.
So if you are a fruitcake lover – and yes, I do know that many of you are reading this and thinking that I am crazy – you need to try Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake recipe. I made it exactly as written, only substituting ground spices for the whole allspice berries and whole cloves. I don’t have a 10″ loaf pan but there was so much batter that I easily made 2 smaller loaf pans (8.5″, I think) which were ready in 42 min. instead of the hour needed for the recipe as written.
Even if you don’t want to make it yourself, do go read the recipe. Yummmmm. I’m even going to make another batch, baste with brandy as called for in the recipe, and taking to Texas for Christmas.