Nothing’s more satisfying than a thick slice of home-made dark Christmas cake with a cup of tea—except perhaps maybe a butter tart with a cup of tea, or a dark chocolate nut brownie or a . . . well, you get my drift. I think fruitcake gets a bad rap and I don’t understand why people compare it to unsavory items like a brick or wallpaper. Properly made with fresh ingredients, a nice dose of rum or brandy and left to ripen for at least six weeks before devouring it at Christmas, it’s one of life’s treasures.
My mother used to make her annual cakes during the first week of November each year while Dad was away deer-hunting. The recipe came from the aunt of her childhood friend Phyllis whose aunt and uncle owned Anderson’s Dairy in the small Ontario town where I grew up. Mom remembered stopping at the dairy on their way home from school in the 1930’s and reaching into the vat of fresh, warm cheese curds for a late afternoon snack. Health regulations would prohibit that kind of special treat today. But Mrs. Anderson’s Christmas cake recipe survived and is now part of my annual tradition.
When my mother reached the age when she could no longer make her own Christmas cakes, I took over. I went to stay with her, taking bags of ingredients I’d purchased ahead of time. It was a major production and I don’t know what my mother used to mix the ingredients in but I couldn’t find a bowl big enough so the first year I washed out a cooler and used it as a mixing bowl, getting in with both hands to blend and mash the candied cherries, currants, raisins, nuts, dates and other ingredients. Typical of decades-old recipes, it was rather vague on some of the portions, such as “one jar of red cherries, one jar of green cherries” so I had to guess at the quantities.
Christmas happens this weekend but I couldn’t wait and last night I carefully peeled back the cheese cloth, inhaled the rich, sugary sweetness of the blend with a hint of rum, poured myself a lovely cup of tea and for the first time in almost a year, once again bit into Mrs. Anderson’s old-fashioned Christmas cake. It’s not just the immediate gratification of tasting the cake that I enjoy, it’s also the memories it evokes—thinking of my mother, her friend and their stops at the dairy, the sharing of a generations-old recipe. I share the bounty with a few fruitcake aficionado’s but mostly I reserve it for myself and my honey. It’s too wonderful and precious to share with anyone but true appreciators. However, if you drop in and you’ve been nice instead of naughty, I’ll put the kettle on and welcome you to my world. Do you have special recipes or things you make at Christmas that warm your heart?
Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.
Feel free to share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.