Bringing Fruitcake Back

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Fruit Cake has had its share of bad press–some of it very well deserved!  Those 2-ton loaves that come stuffed in cans and sold on the cheap have given this holiday season classic a seriously bad name.  A few years ago, we decided to try our hand at making good, old-fashioned fruitcake~fresh, homemade, full of delicious ingredients, and soaked in brandy.  It was such a hit, we’ve been making it ever since.  We started with an old recipe from Teri’s mother (a copy of a blurry carbon copy no less) and Kori has upgraded and adapted it until we have, what we think is the yummiest, melt-in-your-mouth, almost-good-for-you version on the planet!

We make this huge batch the week of Halloween and then let it age and mellow (see below.)  It is ready to start eating at Thanksgiving and has been known to last nearly a year (soaked in enough brandy!)

FRUIT CAKE–with KORI’S ADAPTATIONS

2 pounds mixed candied fruit

1 pound candied cherries

4 cups shelled pecans, chopped (1/2 cup – 1 cup halves reserved for decorating)

1/2 pound chopped, dried figs

1-2 cups dried cranberries

2 pounds raisins

1 pound golden raisins

1 pound dates (chopped, if you can get them)

1 cup brandy or fruit juice (or blackberry wine)

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 Tablespoons Raggedy Hen Farm Baking Spice Blend (or 1 Tablespoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon each: cloves, allspice, nutmeg)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar, packed

8 eggs (we use our fresh backyard eggs)

1 cup fruit jam–favorite flavor

2/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup cherry or blackberry wine, brandy or grape juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

The night before mixing (or early in the morning), put together the mixed fruit, 3/4 pound cherries (save some for decoration), pecans, figs, raisins, dates, cranberries. Chop nuts, if needed and if not using chopped dates, snip dates with kitchen shears (you might need to dip in hot water periodically to prevent stickiness).  Mix all the fruits well in a very large bowl.  Add 1 cup brandy or fruit juice and stir in.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand overnight or for several hours.

Mix, sift together flour, spices, baking powder, and soda.  Add about 2 cups of this flour mixture to the soaking fruits and stir in.  You will want to have the flour-fruit mixture in a very large bowl since this is where all the final mixing and blending will take place.

Cream butter, add brown sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs 2 at a time.  beat in fruit jam and molasses. Add the remaining dry ingredients to this alternatively with the 1/2 cup of wine, brandy or juice.  Finally, stir in vanilla.

Now, pour the well-combined batter over the floured fruits and mix thoroughly. We usually do this with our clean hands as it is such a bit lot! Grease your loaf pans well (large, small, mini, or a combination). Line with wax paper, parchment or foil and grease the inside again.  Fill pans almost level with the top (they will rise a little, but not too much).  Bake in a 275 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours with a cake pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Once done, take out and cool in pans for about a half hour.  At this point, we generally sprinkle with a little more brandy before removing from the pan.  Remove from pan, peel off paper and put on rack to cool.  Once cool, sprinkle with some more brandy or fruit juice and then wrap each loaf in wax paper and foil.  Put in a cool, dry place to age.  After about a week or two, unwrap and sprinkle with a bit more brandy or juice.  Rewrap and let age and mellow some more.  We generally let these mellow for about a month before we start eating and sharing!

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Pre-Season Purge…on the Homefront

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Everything possible has been frozen, canned, dried, and preserved from the garden.  We’ve added compost to all the beds and, as the leaves fall, we are raking them up and adding them to either the garden beds, the chicken run or the compost piles.  The time has come to turn our attentions to the INSIDE as the house has been a bit neglected during the “growing” months!

We have already rearranged the furniture into our cozy wintry configurations, but it is time to give the kitchen a good going-over.  The canning equipment and food dehydrator can be stored in the garage.  We might actually be able to sit and eat at our dining table once again after we clean off the soap molds and colanders. As most of you know, our house is not very big and we try to take advantage of every bit of space to make it as comfortable and useful as possible.  In other words, our counters, shelves and tables are not just for looks!

From now until Christmas, we will be baking, cooking and entertaining so our kitchen has to go from preserving mode to holiday mode and THAT is going to take a good day’s worth of purging and cleaning!

Apple Cider Toddy…Raggedy Hen Farm Style!

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We came home from our recent trip to the pumpkin patch with the season’s first pressing of fresh apple cider.  While it is so amazingly delicious right out of the jug, one of our favorite seasonal treats is to sip a cup of hot, spiced, and spiked cider in the evenings as we unwind.  Like most of the recipes we share, this one is easily adaptable…

Apple Cider Toddy

4-6 cups fresh apple cider (yes, you can use unsweetened apple juice, but it won’t be quite the same)

2-4 whole cinnamon sticks

1 Tablespoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon Baking Spice Blend

optional liquor: brandy, whiskey, bourbon, or spiced rum

Pour cider into a large sauce pan or kettle and toss in the spices.  Give it a stir or two and put on medium high heat.  Gently heat to desired temperature.  We pour an ounce or two of the chosen liquor (and you can leave this out for kiddos or those who prefer without) in a mug and then pour the hot cider over (straining out the cloves and cinnamon sticks).  This way, each person can have their “nip” of choice.  We like to serve it with a cinnamon stick just for extra festive fun.

So easy and so yummy!