Auntie Paul’s Rum Balls

img_6128We grew up in a large house built in the early years of the 20th century. It stood on the corner lot, anchoring our neighbourhood. There seemed to be kids in every second house, parents with good friendships built during their time there, and we were all well known to each other. We’d play Kick-the-Can through the summer evenings using a four-block area, and we’d make wild sled courses in the wonderful occasions of snow, down through 35th Avenue.

Through these years the Scotens, our neighbours from two doors down, would come over for lunch on Christmas day. I’m sure all of us children had been up for hours by this point in the day. Between their family of 8 and ours of 6, it made for a house full, slightly chaotic with a large dog thrown in for measure. Lunch was made up of simple sandwiches and treats. And every year, Mrs. Scoten, known much more familiarly as Auntie Paul (Pauline), would bring Cheesy Pleasies, and Rumballs; one extremely savory, and the other sweet. For us the Rumballs were probably our first taste of alcohol, and feeling very grown up, we’d savor them. Their rich chocolatiness filled with cherries and nuts was very much our Christmas treat. When I’d moved away from home, and was going to do my own family Christmas, I remember writing to Auntie Paul and asking for the recipe. She passed away this year, well into her nineties; I know she’d be so pleased to have me share her recipe.

As you’ll see this is a very simple recipe with broad measurements for several of the ingredients. I usually use all the smaller amounts listed, but have been know to fill them chock full of cherries and nuts on occasion, and you’ll need the larger amount of sour cream to help bind them together if you decide to go this route. Continue reading

Basic Freezer Cookies (Blueberry & Pumpkin Seed Version)

IMG_5367These are excellent cookies to have on hand in your freezer.  They are easy to make, and quick to bake.  We used to make them every Christmas with nuts and cherries, and there is something so wonderful about their simplicity.  So often during the holidays we work to create little masterpieces, so it is lovely to be able to whip up something so good, so easily!  Actually, you could make them today, and bake them Christmas Eve! No muss, no fuss.

For this version, I’ve used dried blueberries, raw pumpkin seeds, and ground flax.  Five other versions follow the recipe.  But this is the type of cookie that does well with experitmentation, so let your creative juices flow! Continue reading

Emily Allen’s Fruitcake

034This is our family’s fruitcake.  My parents had it for their wedding cake; we had it for ours, and many cousins and other relatives have as well.  Pounds of it are made every Christmas, soaked in brandy and left to age.  It makes a great snack for hiking, boating & fishing on the west coast (would probably work on any coast), so extra is made to use during the rest of the year.  Often I still have a piece in the pantry from the year before, found when I’m cooking that year’s batch.

Emily Allen was my mother’s mother’s mother.  She lived in London in a big old house on Palmers Green (still stands today) with her husband and large family.  Pictures we have of the early years of the 20th century show them scrambling over seaside rocks or climbing over hills and dales (literally) with picnic baskets and sports equipment in tow.  Her recipes from that time are barely legible now, faded on well used and splattered pages.  Her recipe showed two forms, a dark fruitcake and a light fruitcake.  There’s only a couple of ingredients that create the difference.  Honey and cider for the light cake and molasses and grape juice for the dark cake. There was a scribbled note about black currant jelly, and she may have used it instead of the molasses. I wonder if it really is her recipe, or was it her cook’s?

We prefer the light cake, so that is the recipe I have written. If you want to try the other form, just replace the two ingredients.  I read a description of perfect fruitcake written by a monk in the 1800’s.  He suggested that there should be barely enough cake to hold the fruit together and when sliced thinly it should resemble a stained glass window.  This recipe meets both of these requirements. It easily cuts to ¼“.040

I don’t know if glacé cherries are the same now as they were a hundred years ago, but today’s version will have to do.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty ageless.  I used to make hundreds of pounds of this cake, selling it to make Christmas money. A 1# wrapped cake would sell for $10 in the 80’s.  I finally stopped when I realized that from late October to the last weekend in November (my latest date of production), that I’d made at least 2 batches if not 3 each day.  I decided I’d rather spend time with my family than make money to spend on them!037

I still like to make some 1# cakes for gifts, and enough 2# cakes to keep our extended family happy.

Note: mixed peel – be sure it is actually citrus peel and not preserved rutabaga.  This is an inexpensive alternative that finds its way into Christmas cake fruit mixes.  Also, when buying cherries, be traditional and stick with red.  Green & yellow aren’t acceptable.

Each batch makes 6# of baked cake. Continue reading