Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Old IS That Fruitcake?...a Christmas confection timeline

A Slice of American Fruitcake, photo by Stu Spivack via Wikimedia Commons
Pecan Pie!, photo by Steve Snodgrass via Wikimedia commons
There are legendary fruitcakes said to be passed down through several generations, doubtless hard and dense enough to second as doorstops during the "off season." But when did this Christmas treat that so many love to hate, much in the same spirit as tacky Christmas sweaters, first appear? Or candy canes, or eggnog, or pecan pie, for that matter? It often surprises me how recent some foods are and how ancient are others. In a recent post I mentioned that chocolate candy did not come on the scene until 1830. Imagine! Before then, chocolate was only ingested as a beverage or as a cake ingredient. Thanks to the wonderful website,, and to, I bring you a list of Christmas foods and their dates of origin. (Of course, due to the nature of the beast, the dates are sometimes not on the nose, but are certainly in the ballpark. How's that for throwing three idioms into one short sentence!) See the special eggnog recipe at the end.

Bobs Canes, photo by BitterSweetHorror
via Wikimedia Commons
Stuffing: 5th century
Gingerbread: 11th century
Mincemeat Pie: 12th century
Fruitcake: 13th century
Plum Pudding: early 15th century
Syllabub: 16th century
Turkey: 16th century
Eggnog:* 17th century
Sugarplums: 17th century
Buche de Noel: 19th century        
Peanut Brittle: 19th century
Pecan Pie: Late 19th century
Red and White Striped Candy Cane: Turn of 20th century
Cheese Ball: turn of 20th century
Jellied Cranberry Sauce (what my sister-in-law calls "Old Fashioned Round"): 1941
Rum Balls: 1940s
"Classic" Green Bean Casserole: 1955
Bishop's Bread (with chocolate chips:) 1959
Spiral-cut Honey Baked Ham: Patented 1952, TradeMark 1957, Available in 1960s
Red Velvet Cake: 1960 (not to be confused with Red Devil Cake from 1930)

We just had our annual Christmas Candlelight Tour Weekend, here in Edenton, NC, where the doors of festive homes are thrown open to admiring visitors. One of the really nice aspects of the event are the free venues housed in 18th century houses where confections and 18th century beverages are happily passed out to us all. One of the most richly luscious is the traditional *eggnog available at the Barker House. In the spirit of the season (and, yes, this eggnog does have spirits aplenty,) I am posting the following Colonial American Eggnog recipe from George Washington himself! Feel free to make your own adjustments to the alcohol contents. ;>}

*George Washington's Eggnog
Makes about 3 quarts
Egg Nog, from     
1 pint brandy
1/2 pint rye whiskey
1/2 pint Jamaican rum
1/4 pint Sherry wine
12 eggs, separated
12 tablespoons sugar
1 quart whole milk
1 quart heavy cream

2-Separate yolks and whites of the eggs*.
3-Add sugar to beaten yolks and mix well.
4-Add combined liquors to the yolk and sugar mixture, drop by drop at first, slowly beating it all the while.
5-Add cream and milk and mix thoroughly.
6-Beat the egg whites* until stiff and gently fold these into cream liquor and yolk mixture.
7-Let this sit in the refrigerator for several days.
Enjoy (responsibly!)

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! And have the Merriest of Christmases!

No comments: