As an update for long-time readers of the "f.o. friday" series, I'm expanding my definition of an f.o. to include finished objects that aren't knitting. Between the increasing number of secret knitting projects and more garment knitting, the knitted f.o.s are fewer and farther between. This weeks, I bring you a cooking f.o.: Fruitcake!
The holidays are now far enough behind us that I hope we can have a sane and balanced conversation about this much-maligned baked good.
Why do so many people hate fruitcake? Because everyone is Doing It Wrong.
Fruitcake has been the victim of a series of awful recipe substitutions and omissions, and the results are often highly undelicious.
Case in point - that disturbing green stuff next to the glace cherries on your grocer's shelf in December? That's usually maraschino cherries that have been dyed green and doused with artificial flavors. It's created to mimic (and I use the term loosely) candied angelica root, which used to be traditional fruitcake ingredient.
As if that weren't enough, my family recipe calls for 12 ounces of candied citrus peel - 4 oz orange peel, 4 oz lemon peel, and 4 oz citron peel. That's more volume than the flour involved, and almost as much candied peel as dried fruit!
Candied citrus rind dropped of most fruitcake recipe cards sometime in the 40s or 50s. And what caused its demise? I blame the rail road. Back when oranges and other citrus were highly seasonal and expensive, it was worthwhile to use every part of the fruit. Candying citrus rind isn't hard, but it is time-consuming. If you have easy access to cheap, fresh oranges, you're probably not going to put energy into saving every last bit of the peel for future use.
So, for me, fruitcake starts with aliens. And by aliens, I mean these:
That's a Buddha's hand citron. There's almost no juicy flesh inside these things - they are all rind and pith, and the have a wonderful sweet, complex, lemony flavor. I candy strips of the rind, along with orange peel and local kumquats.
This time around, I used dried cherries, figs, and prunes for my fruit, and let them soak and re-hydrate in bourbon for the better part of a week. Between the bourbon-soaked fruit and the candied rind, the resulting fruitcake is delicious - with a lot of citrus flavor.
And please, don't bring that green stuff into your home. I suspect it turns into something even creepier at night.