As Christmas time draws near, I start thinking of all my favorite foods of the season. In the next few weeks I will be sharing many of my favorites. One of my favorite happens to be fruitcake.

There seems to have been a great debate going on for decades, or possibly even for centuries on the likes or dislikes of fruitcake.

On the dislikes side are those who liken the fruitcake to a spare tire or a doorstop. I heard Jay Leno once say there was only one fruitcake, and it had been passed around from person to person to person for years as a gift. Gary Larson who drew the Far Side cartoons, once did a cartoon showing an angel at the manger scene and saying there was a fourth wiseman who came bearing fruitcake and he was turned away. (I always loved Gary Larson’s cartoons.)

On the likes side are those who love the variety of fruits and nuts in this delectable holiday dessert and couldn’t imagine Christmas without it. I am now on this side of the debate, but I wasn’t always a fruitcake lover. As a child all I can remember about fruitcake were the ones available on the bread aisle of the grocery store, and they weren’t very tasty. If this is what you had an early taste of, you probably don’t like fruitcake either.

That was all I recall trying until I went to my ex-husband’s grandmother’s probably in 1969. Granny Gladson had a fruitcake she had made with Eagle Brand Milk. She convinced me to try it, and I loved it! I tried many things that she would convince me to try, and I would find out things I grew to love.

My brother never met a fruitcake he didn’t love. In 1971, he was stationed in Ethiopia, and it was Christmas time. He had recently married and adopted his wife’s three children. He was eager to share his love of Christmas and all the traditions and foods. He wanted to make them a fruitcake, but the only fruit available at the commissary were candied cherries and raisins. His wife suggested they to an Italian Pharmicia in downtown Asmara. This is the same thing as our drug store.

They went, and to his amazement the shelves were lined with tall glass jars filled with a wide variety of candied fruits. He said there were at least twenty varieties of candied fruits. He purchased a cup of each, and went home to make his prized fruitcake. He chose his largest bowl and put in a box of gingerbread mix, and started adding the fruits along with some nuts. His bowl was soon full, and still more fruit needed to be added. The only thing he had big enough to add everything else to was his dishpan. He cleaned that up and added more fruit along with another gingerbread mix. Now he was faced with another dilemma; he didn’t have anything large enough to bake his fruitcake in. He just left the mixture in the dishpan, and placed it in the oven. When it came out of the oven, he found his delectable cake was hard as a rock and virtually inedible. Well, he found out their maid thought it was the best thing she had ever tasted. She was the only one to eat it. He swears that she was eating fruitcake for months. I still laugh every time he tells me this story!

That was his fruitcake story, and here is mine. One year when he was stationed overseas, I decided to make a fruitcake for him by Granny Gladson’s recipe. I baked this in two loaf pans; one for him and one for me. Well, a slight problem came up after I ate all of mine, and then ate all of his. I wound up having to make the recipe again. I told you I loved fruitcake!

Truly, in my opinion if you don’t like fruitcake, you’ve just never had a good fruitcake. As far as store bought fruitcakes go, Claxton makes a pretty decent one, but not as good as homemade. If you don’t want to make your own, Yoder’s at Bulls Gap makes a very good fruitcake.

If you would like to make your own fruitcake, I’m giving you two good ones along with a fruitcake cookie recipe that I love a lot also. One of the cake recipes is the one I told you that Granny Gladson made. The other is a recipe that used to be very popular back in the 50s and 60s. It’s a no-bake cake. I found this recipe on a paper handwritten by my mother.

The fruitcake and the cookies are best if made several weeks before you want to eat them. Store them in a tightly sealed container or tightly wrapped in foil. One year I also wrapped my cake in cheesecloth and brushed it every day or so with rum. This made a deliciously moist and tasty cake.

As always, enjoy! Feel free to send me your comments, questions or requests.

Eagle Brand® Fruitcake

1 pound pecans

1 pound walnuts

1 pound dates

1-8 ounce container candied cherries ( I mix both red and green)

1-8 ounce container candied pineapple

1-8 ounce container coconut

2 cans Eagle Brand® Milk

Chop and mix all ingredients. Add Eagle Brand® Milk, and mix thoroughly. Pack firmly into two grease loaf pans or one Bundt pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Keep in tightly sealed container.

Icebox Fruitcake

1 pound pecans, chopped

1 pound walnuts, chopped

1 pound dates, chopped

½ pound candied cherries, chopped (Again I recommend a mix of red and green)

½ pound candied pineapple, chopped

1 pound box dark raisins

1 box graham crackers

1 cup orange juice

1 pound bag marshmallows

Crush graham crackers, mix in the fruits and nuts that have been chopped. Add raisins. Melt marshmallows in the orange juice. Mix into fruit and nut mixture. Place in two loaf pans that have been lined with wax paper and buttered (or sprayed with cooking spray.). Place in refrigerator for ten days.

Fruitcake Cookies

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ pound candied cherries

½ pound candied pineapple

1 ½ pounds chopped nuts (6 cups)

2 1/4 cups white raisins

2 tablespoons whole milk

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons orange juice

Assemble all ingredients and utensils. Chop cherries, pineapple and nuts. In large bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time. Use ½ cup of flour to sprinkle over fruit. Then combine all ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 250 degree oven for about 3 to 35 minutes. Yield about 72 cookies.