Monday, December 07, 2009

Molly MacRae Mondays Begin

Welcome Author Molly MacRae to her new monthly guest spot on Vintage Cookbooks. She'll be here every first Monday celebrating her love of vintage foods. Enjoy! -Amy
Amy kindly asked me back to Vintage Cookbooks to share a fruitcake recipe for the holidays. Though, on thinking over our exchange, I’m not sure it was so much an invitation as maybe a threat on my part. Me: “I have fond memories of my mother’s fruitcake.” Amy: “Ahhhh! Fruitcake!”

For several years during the mid 60s, my mother and her friend Mrs. Crumrine made delicious, dark fruitcake full of currants, raisins, and nuts. Or maybe just currants and nuts. Brandy, certainly. Or was it whiskey? Anyway, it had none of those wretchedly sweet red and green globs. Their fruitcake was serious and sturdy. Spenser or V.I. Warshawski could have enjoyed a slab and no one would have snickered.

The problem is I don’t know what recipe they used. Neither do my five siblings. Neither do Mrs. Crumrine’s six children. And, as it turns out, neither does Mrs. Crumrine, now in her nineties, who doesn’t remember the fruitcake, much less making it.

Still, how hard could it be to find the recipe? So I started comparing notes and old cookbooks with my sisters. Between us we have four or five editions of The Joy of Cooking and several of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. But, oh. Oh no. They all feature recipes for dark fruitcakes. All different. Each producing 10 or 12 or 15 pounds of the stuff. Oh dear.

So, now I’m all nervous – afraid I’m going to let Amy down. I could really use a fortifying hunk of Mom’s fruitcake right about now. Or the whiskey.

Instead, I do the next best thing. I call Ms. Prune Whip. Me: “Ahhhh! Fruitcake!” Ms. Prune Whip: “Calm yourself, Molly. Have a cup of tea and finish reading Sophie Littlefield’s excellent and funny mystery A Bad Day for Sorry. I will test the recipes and report back with results. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for the blog that Amy is sure to love.”

Prune Pie
(from The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, 1945, page 606)

½ pound prunes 1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup sugar (scant) 1 ½ teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon flour

Wash prunes and soak in enough hot water to cover. Cook in same water until soft. Remove stones, cut prunes in quarters, and mix with sugar and lemon juice. Reduce juice to 1 ½ tablespoons. Line plate with pastry, fill with prunes, pour over juice, dot with butter, and dredge with flour. Put on upper crust. If desired, bake in one crust. Bake.

Thanks, Ms. Prune Whip, that sounds splendid! What would I do without you?


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Molly,

When you get older, prunes becomes seriously important in the diet!

My Aunt Molly was an incredible baker. She learned much of it from her mother. When I asked for recipes, she would say that she took a pinch of this or that, but there were never any formal written recipes. What a shame! She had no daughters and no one else learned how she baked. It teaches us all to write things down, keep a journal of our cooking successes.

Jacqueline Seewald

Susan Oleksiw said...

Nice post on nostalgic recipes. I haven't been able to find my mother's german cookie recipe for Christmas, though I can still recall its taste 50 years after the last time she made it. Sometimes I think my life is measured by books and food.

Susan Oleksiw

Molly said...

That's a wonderful way to measure a life, Susan. Books and food - they nourish every part of us. And when we share them, they nourish family, friends, community . . .

Thanks for telling me about your Aunt Molly, Jacqueline. Do you have any pictures of her? So sorry her recipes are gone!