Pirate Rum & Fruitcakes
I surfed over to She Who Eats today. Chika is the blogs owner and posts regularly with fantastically gourmet photos. Yesterday she had begun her yearly Christmas Fruitcake preparation. I could resist trying out the same 'recipe', as Chika is adapting one to suit her needs. Inspired by the gem like fruits layered in the thick glass jars my imagination began to whirl. Day dreams of wowing my brother and grandparents with my very own fruitcake seemed intoxicating.
Speaking of intoxicating, I used half a bottle of The Boy's favorite rum that he hides in the freezer. Taking it out only for "special guests". Christ almighty! I used the entire bottle up. (Only half a bottle by the time I got my greedy hands on it- but non the less- that'll just be our little secret. )
I began planning out my trip to the store. It was crucial to find local ingredients, such as cherries and prunes grown in Sunnyvale. I headed to just that very place. I liked how Chika was using French dried fruits and sticking to a theme of using French spirits to soak into her fruits. For those of you new to "Fruitcake" its traditionally an English Christmas desert. Americans created a bastardization of it and made fruitcake into some legendary 'white elephant gift'. Comlete with green candied objects that are neither edible nor identifiable. Most Americans chuck out the horrid gift or joke that its become their new doorstop. However those in the know special order them from companies online. A proper fruitcake recipe can be found at Delia Smith's site.
That link will give you a better idea of the real ingredients that are needed to make a gloriously rich, moist and delicious Christmas cake. In fact, Mincemeat isn't really meat at all. Its an assortment of dried fruits soaked in liqueur. Be it Rum, Brandy , Congac, Whiskey- etc. Its really a recipe that can be adapted to your own tastes and what you have on hand.
My source for quality dried fruits is Sunnymount produce in Sunnyvale, California. Sunnyvale being a town filled with orchards back in the 1940 and 50's. I ogled a fantastic selection of dried candied fruit, dried berries, dried candied rinds and peels. In an attempt to follow Chika's lead, and also to keep the "terroir" of the land in my cake I choose Cherries, pears, cranberries, prunes and golden raisins.
There is much discussion of terroir, a French term which has no simple translation into English. It refers to the external influences on the ripening grapes, including the soils (depth and type), bedrock, exposure to sun and wind, water table and so on. Others include rootstock (really an intrinsic part of the vine, even if it is grafted) and local climate (undoubtedly an influence on the vine, but I feel separate from terroir).
I chopped up the pears & prunes into smaller bite sized pieces then layered everything in two 'one liter' jars.
Then comes the rum. Sailor Jerry's pirate rum- hardly a culinary triumph, is a favorite of mine for its warm, spicy, cinnamon aromas. Its distilled locally and incredibly smooth. Once the bottle had run out I switched to Grand Marnier. (Only my most favorite liquor on the planet. Hey, I was stuck with no other option, I had to use the good stuff! Darn. ) Thinking they were properly layered and shut tight I had Evan shake them a bit, and inspect my seals. (This proved to be messy as the seals weren't sealed at all! Evan and I knew my Aunt would come home to find us stinking of Rum at just that very moment.)
In a month from now, according to Chika, I can make my batter and incorporate the mincemeat. That'll be Thanksgiving weekend I expect. Once the cakes are made you prick with holes so that you can "feed" the cake now and then with more rum. The cake is wrapped up tightly and placed in a airtight container in the fridge. This helps the flavors marry and makes for a better cake. A month of living in the fridge, the cake is ready for consumption! The flavours are mellow, and the liquer taste will be much more refined and subtle. My brother loves nothing more then a moist fruitcake with a healthy dose of spirits. I hope this year I can knock his socks off!