They're done. About 50 fruitcakes, all packed up, some soaked with brandy, and waiting for the holidays.
Three of my seven sisters made the long trek from northern Virginia to my home in the West Virginia hills, not far from the Ohio River. My aunt and her daughter-in-law, our beloved Bridget, also came, as did three granddaughters and a couple of their friends.
We had a blast. We ate and baked and laughed and mixed,
made messes and cleaned them up and completely enjoyed our time together.
The tradition came from our mother, who may have learned it from her mother. Get together with other women and girls to make the holiday cakes. And everyone gets three stirs of each bowl and makes a wish on each one. We are passing it on to our grandchildren in hopes this fun tradition will continue to bring our womenfolk together long after we're gone.
We make good cakes too. Even those who say they don't like fruitcake like our cakes. Each batch comes out a little differently from the others, and every year the cakes are different from the year before. Which is odd because we use basically the same ingredients. But sometimes we add more or less fruit; the fruits vary year to year; sometimes some of us use honey instead of molasses, or sorghum molasses instead of blackstrap. Sometimes we put in peach jam, other times blackberry or other berries, sometimes jelly; sometimes the eggs are bigger, and other years some might use dark brown sugar while others use light brown. Sometimes we add brandy to the mix, sometimes not.
Mine are now soaked with brandy, to sit and absorb the flavor into the fruits and cake. I've already sampled one without brandy, and it was delicious...but the brandy will make it better!
My house is now back in order, the dishes washed and put away, the bed linens and towels washed and sorted and put away, the floors swept. But the joy that permeated this place over the weekend is still here. It seeped into every corner and cupboard, and still hovers around the corners of my mouth.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.