The earliest recipe for fruitcake came from ancient Rome. It lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into a barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added to the mix. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the ingredients available as well as church regulations in some instances forbidding the use of butter. Fruitcake was used to sustain Roman Legions during their long, arduous campaigns, as well as the Christian armies during the Crusades.
Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit. This made fruitcakes more affordable and a lot more popular. Fruitcake is thought to have made its appearance in America during the Revolutionary War.
It is unknown why fruitcakes became synonymous with Christmas, but it is thought to have been started by English nobles who passed out a slice of plum cake to poor carolers in the late 1700's.
Does anyone really eat fruitcake? It seems Southerners are a bit fonder of fruitcake - over forty percent say they not only eat it during the holidays, but actually enjoy it. Those of you who hate fruitcake, sit back, have a double shot of eggnog, and hope you don't get another doorstop this year.
My family tradition is the best part of the Christmas holidays for me. It's how my family says thank you to people in our community who've gone out of their way to be kind to us and friends we've appreciated over the years. Yes, there are people I know who love the fruitcake I bake and gift to them. Amazing, you say? As far as I'm concerned, they have excellent taste. I've even had people cry when we moved from their area because they didn't think they'd ever get another one. Surprise, two different friends found one in their mailbox around Christmastime for seventeen years.
I got my recipe from my mother-in-law 48 years ago. I'd never eaten a fruitcake up to that time, but knew the cakes were special. Every year after that I've baked three batches (six cakes in a batch) and handed all of them out but one. My hubby loves the fruitcakes, too. Some people say no thank you, and I appreciate they do not like fruitcakes and didn't want to bother to try one of mine. A lot of times I give a cake to one member of a couple, and afterwards the other half of the couple admits they tried a piece and said they really liked it.
I can attest to fruitcakes being enjoyed by people in the South. I send a cake to a family member in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida every year.
When my daughters were little, they'd sit on the kitchen counter, wrap their legs around the large Tupperware bowl, and stir as I put the ingredients in. I was sad when they grew up and weren't around to help me anymore. Hubby refuses to sit on the counter - what's that all about?
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