When I was younger, one of the Christmas traditions at our house was my mother and faother toiling in the kitchen and making hundreds of fruitcake cookies.
Fruitcakes are made of candied fruits, such as cherries, pineapple, raisins, lemon and orange peel, and pecans and walnuts. I’ve seen them actually baked into pound cake shaped cakes, but if you buy them in the store, they usually come in either brick-sized loafs, or half-brick loafs (take a brick and slice it in half long ways). If you don’t already know it, Georgia is home to one of the best commercial fruitcake companies, Claxton Fruitcakes, southeast of here in Claxton, Ga.
Fruitcake cookies are just like the cakes, except they are baked as cookies. I don’t know where she got her recipe from, but you apparently could not cut it in half or quarters, because she always ended up making hundreds of fruitcake cookies. And, because we couldn’t eat all of those fruitcake cookies at home, she had dozens of small cookie tins, and she would fill each tin with fruitcake cookies and send them to family and friends. My parents had three boys, and as we each grew up, moved out and started our own families, we would invariably each take home one of mama’s big red tins full of dozens of fruitcake cookies.
Our Dad died in 1991 and Mama stopped making fruitcake cookies shortly after that. We have the recipe in cookbooks that Mama and my oldest brother, Jimmy, made for the family, but I don’t know if any of us have dared to try to make the fruitcake cookies since then.
I was reminded of them last week when I was visiting with Jimmy, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Jimmy spent most of this fall in the hospital, and has only been out a few weeks. He lives in a small apartment and is able to get around on his own, but he can’t drive yet, so he depends on one of his three sons to take him where he needs to go.
A few days before Christmas, he and his youngest son, Ashley, were out shopping at Ingle’s, and found some half bricks of Claxton Fruitcake, made in Claxton, Ga. He bought a couple, gave one away, and they ate the other when his sons can over on Christmas Eve for dinner and presents. On the evening of Christmas Day, Jimmy got “cabin fever” and asked Ashley to take him out for a drive to see the Christmas lights. While they were out, they stopped by a Publix grocery store to see if they had any fruitcakes. Ashley said when he went in to ask, the clerk said no, they didn’t have any, and that he had never even heard of fruitcake.
I drove over Thursday and Jimmy and I went out to do some shopping. We stopped back by the Ingle’s where they had found the half bricks of fruitcake and I went in to check for more. But the clerk said fruitcake is “seasonal,” and that they didn’t have any more.
When I got home Saturday, I checked online and Claxton Fruitcake sells and ships fruitcake from its shop. I may send Jimmy a couple of bricks of fruitcake. While they are not exactly the same as Mama’s fruitcake cookies, they still bring back memories of past family Christmases.