Monday, November 29, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as good fruitcake

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and spritely, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable--not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the window pane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
from Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

I heart fruitcake, yes I do, and I think if more people had good fruitcake, they would like it, too. Sadly, for many Americans living above the Mason-Dixon line, the idea of fruitcake is a dry-as-dust, oblong, studded-with-dayglo mystery fruit. It has become the butt of jokes, and a favorite object for "re-gifting". Now I have heard that down South, a delicious fruitcake can be had. As a yankee, my key to success was to find a source from someone who is not American. Not un-American. NOT American. Someone who was born in a country where fruitcake is appreciated and lovingly made. My recipes have come from both across the pond and down under. I feel it is my civic duty to spread the fruitcake love, my charge as an ambassador, trying to change the mind of one fruitcake-hater at a time...

I start with 7 pounds of mixed dried fruit--apricots, figs, strawberries, blueberries, raisins, etc. Soak overnight in two cups of blackberry brandy.
1 pound sugar
1 dozen eggs
1 pound flour
1 pound butter
1/2 jar marmalade (approx. 7 ounces)
1/2 jar berry jam (approx. 7 ounces)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the yolks of the eggs, then the flour and slightly beaten egg whites. Add the fruit and the jam. Put a greased or buttered paper at the bottom of the pan and also on the top of the cake mixture--I use parchment paper liners and an old Courier and Ives cookie tin to bake in. Pour the batter into the pan. Keep top covered with the parchment for the first two hours of baking, then remove. Bake at 300 degrees for three hours. Douse with more brandy if you like.

I like using a cookie tin because I can both bake and store the cake in it. Let the cake cool completely before removing. The paper-lined bottom will make it easy to shake out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Merci beaucoup, mon Dieu

"Let integrity stand guard as I wait for you."
Psalm 25:21

Counting blessings

292 - first night of Advent

293 - pomanders

294 - flour covered fingers

295 - when the house smells like pie

296 - the ridiculously extravagant birthday cake from our favorite French bakery that my family blesses me with every year

297 - the heavens declare...

holy experience

Joining Ann today

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey talk: Cranberry-clementine relish

Easy and delicious.

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries.
8 small clementines cut in half (do not peel)
1/3 cup sugar

Add cranberries and clementines, then a 1/3 cup of sugar. Pulse in a food processor to get a fine chunk consistency. It's so good. Citrusy (not a word 'til now?), sweet-tart taste. Chill before serving. I make it a day or two ahead so all the flavors can blend. It's a nice change from the usual cranberry sauce. Recipe came from my friend Simmy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Farewell, farm livin', 'til spring

Thursday was my last day of work 'til spring. Time to wash the wood smoke smell, pot black, and candle wax out of my 18th century garb and pack it away in the cedar chest with some dried lavender. I'm looking forward to a winter's rest in front of my own snug fire. Here are some of my favorite picture-memories of this year. I'm grateful for my most unusual employment, which suits my eccentricities in every way. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Counting blessings

279 - getting to be a colonial clothes horse

280 - chicken in the kitchen (shoo, shoo, shoo)

281 - dedicated farmers...

282 - ...and all the pretty little horses

283 - whisks made of twigs

284 - bacon

285 - hearth cooking

286 - Stephanie's shortbread

287 - colonial boys

288 - curly locks

289 - teaching the kids

290 - this little light of mine

291 - 'til next season

holy experience

Joining Ann today

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Be still, my soul

If you click on the photo, you can read the words of life...

Joining Emily today

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweater revamp

I'm one of those people who feels the cold. Deeply. I have to fight the urge to turn the thermostat up to 80 degrees or else walk around the house wrapped in a blanket, which impedes progress at every turn. But I found the next best thing.

I learned this little trick from my friend Joan, who learned it from her dear mom. Take an oversized wool pullover sweater, easily found at a thrift shop.

Using good sewing shears, carefully cut it up the middle. The sweater must be wool. The fake acrylic stuff, besides being ugly, won't work because it unravels when you cut it.

Next, fold the cut edges over and whip stitch them up. Easy peasy.

I love big old sweaters, but being short, the pullovers don't work for me. Turning them into cardigans works. Perfect for around the house.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This morning

Taking in the world news sadness while waking up to your clock radio can leave you a strange mix of extreme thankfulness and embarrassment at having so much comfort. Oh God, never let me take for granted the simple pleasures you set before me. My boundaries have indeed fallen in pleasant places. Show me how to give more away.

Counting blessings

271 - November blooming borage

272 - Sunday afternoon rest

273 - surprise awesomeness found by my husband in a second-hand shop

274 - artistic inspiration supplied by NetFlix

275 - a house guest from down under who....

276 - ...brings heaps of chocolate

277 - River strolls

278 - domestic bliss

holy experience

Joining Ann today

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paper pastel prayer

Isaiah 65:22 - As the days of a tree, so shall be the days of my people.

new life, fresh...

pruned to fruit...

shedding the unnecessary...

barenaked faith

Joining Emily today

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Full to the brim

"I should like now to promenade around your gardens--
apple-tasting -- pear-tasting -- plum-judging --
apricot-nibbling -- peach-scrunching -- nectarine-sucking,
and melon-carving. I have also a great feeling for
antiquated cherries full of sugar-cracks --
and a white currant-tree kept for company."
John Keats

Counting Blessings

265 - daydreamers

266 - quince jam

267 - be still, my heart

268 - smashing pumpkin :)

269 - bounty

270 - thoughtfulness (thank you, Kerrie)

holy experience

Joining Ann today


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