Kitchen Witch - Trick-or-treat, smell my fruitcake
I suppose you're thinking with a name like Kitchen Witch, I'd be boiling up something in my cauldron this week in honor of All Hallows' Eve and Dia de los Muertos. Unfortunately, my broom is in the shop, my mojo is out of alignment and I'm in no mood for trick-or-treaters. (Does that give me license to say "Bah Hallowbug"?)
Instead, this witch is retreating inward, hard at work on a potion of another kind, in preparation for the longer haul of the upcoming holiday season that (brace yourself) is just three weeks away. This year, I've foregone my beloved caramel apples and candy corns for a witchy project of a different order – the fruitcake.
Go on, laugh all you like; I know I'm setting myself up for ridicule and mockery. How can "fruitcake" and "good" be used in the same sentence, you ask, chortling. I'm right there with you; I've never had a good fruitcake, either. I believe the problem, however, lies with the preponderance of candied fruit that, when combined with booze, yields a sci-fi-like, surreal neon-colored glow and texture that scares the bejesus out of the toughest witch in town.
So I'm taking the candied, glacéed fruit out of the picture (did you ever really like those green maraschino cherries to begin with?) and giving the fruitcake a second chance. With the holiday season at nigh, the time is now to marinate the fruit, the first step to making a properly seasoned (read: boozy) fruitcake. With help from my friend LaurelAnn Morley, who runs a small beachside restaurant in Barbados, I now have a jar of fruit bathing in booze for at least two more weeks, when I'll make the cake, which needs a few weeks of alone time in a tin (with booze, of course) before its uncandied holiday debut.
Part two of this witchy endeavor, which includes a recipe for the fruitcake batter, will be featured in the Nov. 15 issue.
Adapted from Caribbean Recipes "Old & New" by LaurelAnn Morley
The following is enough fruit for a cake made in a deep, 10-inch cake pan.
About 3 1/2 cups dried fruit, which includes:
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup dried cherries (unless you insist on equal amounts of the candied stuff)
1 cup of your dried fruit favorites – figs, golden raisins (aka sultanas), apricots, prunes and cranberries are all tasty choices
1/2 cup citrus peel from any combination of oranges, grapefruit or lemons
About 4 cups of boozy spirits, a combination of any of the following: amber rum, brandy, cognac, grappa and fortified wine such as sweet sherry, port or Madeira
In a wide-mouthed, airtight jar, combine all ingredients and stir. Allow to steep for a few days; you may notice that the fruit has absorbed much of the alcohol.
Spoon mixture into the bowl of a food processor and use the "pulse" function to chop the fruit, to prevent it from completely pureeing. You want fruit to be slightly chunky.
Return fruit and residual liquid to airtight jar and keep in cool, dark place, allowing it to steep for at least 2 weeks and up to 1 month. Every few days, shake jar or turn it upside down to move fruit around.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at firstname.lastname@example.org.