Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Christmas Fruit Cake from Alberta Burrill 1934

We have to face the fact that many of the old recipes that were commonly used in the US in the 20th century probably came from one of the old time cookbooks or from the Boston Globe here in New England, or from some other regional paper. In this case, we are Italian for the most part. In my family, there may have been a British component in the form of the Mitchells, and my mother was surrounded with Canadians when she lived in Northern Maine, but she was essentially Italian. Also, Uncle Phil, well known as a great cook, and Grammie could not escape that Italian Background. Fruit cake is pretty much a Northern European phenomenon. There are cakes and pastries that included dried and candied fruits in Italian tradition, and sweets such as Panforte that bear at least a nodding resemblance to fruit cake. But what we as Americans think of as fruitcake came from England and similar recipes will appear in Germany, where we, of course, have our roots.
Fruitcake was a big deal at our house. Mom rarely did one while I remember it. Uncle Phil and Grammie did though. since they did so many of them, it really did not matter that Mom did not. There were fruitcakes that were as black as tar, and some that were a medium golden color. All were heavily soaked with alcohol as a rule. There are a couple of recipes included here from Grammie, but here is one from Alberta Burrill, a most British aligned person.

1/2 pound of Butter
1/2 pound lard
1 1/4 pounds flour(about 4 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 pound white sugar
1/2 pound brown sugar
1 cup egg whites
1 cup egg yolks
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 cup sour milk(perhaps buttermilk will do)
1 pound seedless raisins
1 pound citron
1/4 pound candied ginger
1/4 pound orange and lemon peel(there was no real mention here of whether it was 1/4 pound of each or of both mixed to total 1/4 pound.)
1 pound nuts
2 teaspoons nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. (again, I must assume 2 teaspoons of each, but only done as a list in her manuscript)
1/2 cup each of grape and prune juice.

Cream the fats,
Add the sugar gradually,
Add the egg yolks(beaten),
Add the molasses.

Dissolve the sugars in the milk and add.

Toast 2/3 of the flour in the oven.
Sift together with the spices and add.
Add the fruit juices.
Sift the rest of the flour and the soda and baking powder together and add.
Add the nuts, that have already been floured with the previously mentioned flour.
Stiffly beat the egg whites and fold in as gently as possible.
Bake in loaf pans at 250 to 325 degree oven. If baked in one large pan, about four hours is required.

Well, that is the first time I have ever seen a range in temperature given like that! You could satisfy this range by starting at the high temperature and reduce it as the baking process progresses. That would be similar to the old time "slowing oven" I have mentioned before.

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