A Different Cookie Club this year
Last Monday, we had our cookie exchange, and I was sick! I sat in a corner so I didn’t infect my friends, passed out my goodies and left heartbroken to miss one of the highlights of my year. Any of you who’ve read The Christmas Cookie Club have a sense of how much fun the cookie exchange can be!
This year, especially, I started thinking about the party as soon as the watermelons were ripe. Why watermelons? What do they have to do with Christmas? Well my favorite Christmas treat is fruitcake and a particularly delicious one contains sweet pickled watermelon rind. For years, I preserved the rind in August, baked the cakes the weekend after Thanksgiving so they could marinate in liquor for a month before the holiday.
When I started going to the Christmas cookie club, I baked cookies instead. Now, I didn’t get complaints from my family about this switch. They all love cookies and look forward to the bounty of twelve dozen home made treats. Fruitcake has become, alas, a joke with a terrible reputation as a hard, tasteless confection filled with indecipherable red and green things. But this year, I missed the fruitcake and wanted to share it with my cookie ladies. So I preserved the the watermelon rind, and then I decided to make amaretto liquor to sprinkle over the cake every week from the time it is baked until the time it is served.
This will be a special Holiday because my entire family will be together. Next year, my son, who lives less than an hour from me, will be accepting a position more than 500 miles away. It will not be so easy for him to stop over for lunch, or drive up with his family so we can walk in the park, watch the ducks and geese in the river, and swing in the playground. Since everyone will be home and it is uncertain when this will happen again, I wanted to return to the early traditions.
So, a week before Thanksgiving, I made the fruitcakes:
Watermelon Rind Fruit Cake
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour 12 ounces white raisins
1 ½ t. Baking powder 6 ½ ounces pecans
½ t. salt 1 cup butter
2 cups drained watermelon pickle shredded 2 cups sugar
6 ounces candied pineapple shredded 5 eggs
7 ounces of your favorite other dried or candied fruit ½ cup amaretto
5 ounce almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped
Marinate the fruits and nuts overnight in some of the liquor.
Preheat oven to 300. Grease 2 9x 12 loaf pans or one bundt cake pan. Or 7 small loaves. I spray well, butter and then spray with oil again. You can also line with wax paper and grease it.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt. Mix several teaspoons into fruits and nuts.Cream the butter until smooth, adding the sugar gradually. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the liquor. Mix in fruit and nut mixture.
Transfer batter to pans and press down.Bake two hours. Cool.
Wrap the cakes in cheesecloth and store in an airtight container about a month. Sprinkle weekly with a light shower of liquor.
I bought small bottles to tuck beside each loaf which I filled with the amaretto.
Everything was ready. I was excited.
And then I got sick. Really sick. As sick as I remember ever being. Not sick dangerous. Just sick miserable. Chills. Flushed. Fever of 102. Sore throat. Drippy eyes and nose. Coughs that hurt my ribs.
Well, I went to the party to give out the fruitcakes. I sat in a corner so I couldn’t contaminate anyone. And then left.
A few days later, Marybeth brought over the cookies placing the bag of great and colorful treats in my entryway without bothering me or risking infection.
Another partygoer was unable to attend, ill with the same thing. We’ve been commiserating and sharing home remedies over the phone.
I missed the fun of the party. Passing out the cookies and hearing the stories. The introduction of a new cookie virgin. Dancing. Singing a compromised (and, I understand, slightly dirty) version of the 12 days of Christmas.
Instead, I placed the gaily-wrapped packages of yummies on my table to bring good cheer. When my appetite returned, I ate cookies. Every day I get a little better, by the time the holiday comes I should be well. I made an additional fruitcake for my family to eat soaking in the amaretto. Next year, there will be another cookie party and I’ll see my friends at various events throughout the year. Meanwhile, I witness the bright colors of their packages, and envision my friends’ cheery voices and excitement as I share our bountiful talents.
Enjoy your family and friends everyone!