Redeeming Fruitcake

26 Dec

FruitcakeFruitcake is my favorite Christmas food.. Maligned, slandered, synonymous with a punch line – yep, that fruitcake.

When it’s done right, fruitcake is amazing. By done right, I mean adhering to the following fruitcake rules:

1. None of that weird preserved green stuff. The mysterious green stuff is supposed to resemble candied angelica root, a common fruitcake ingredient of yesteryear.

2. Fruitcake should contain real fruit. I use figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dried cherries if I can find them

3.Fruitcake should be boozy. I soak my dried fruit in brandy or bourbon for 24 – 26 hours. It adds flavor, richness, and moisture.

citronsThis year, I wanted to get all authentic. Ye old family fruitcake recipe (i.e. my mom’s) calls for 4 oz candied orange peel, 4 oz candied lemon peel, and 4 oz of preserved citron.

I make candied orange peel a couple of times each year, but never tried to make candied citron.

I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of citron in Asia, but almost never in Shanghai. I asked around at several fruit places, but nobody stocked it – it seems to be more of a Southern thing.

Conveniently enough, the plant market had several smallish ornamental trees with three or four citrons on each. I bought one and got it home to discover the citrons didn’t actually grow on the tree – they had been cut off another (probably much larger) tree, and grafted on to keep them fresh and make a pretty display. So weird.

I scrubbed them with fruit wash, and followed the same recipe I use to make candied orange peel. They have a candied citronslight bitterness and more of a green flavor than the orange peel, and were really fun to work with.

fruits and peelsThe final pile of brandy-soaked fruit, blanched almonds, and the various peels smelled amazing, and I just love how the fruitcake itself turned out.

It’s gotten me thinking about what other recipes need a bit of love to bring them back to their former glory.

Tuna casserole is next on my list.