Okay, just how bad is that candied fruit you can buy at the grocery store? An embarrassing admission...
I always get these ideas in my head at the last minute and then I get stubborn about them! My mom really likes fruitcake and I wanted to make her some for Christmas this year. Of course, I thought of this a couple of nights ago! Now, I know fruitcake purists say to only use good candied fruit and that you have to make them far in advance... I get that and I appreciate that. However, me and my stubborn self went to the grocery store last night in search of the ingredients for the Fruitcake Gems from Rose's Christmas Cookies. First, I went to Whole Foods and they didn't have anything, which I was a little surprised at, and I figured if I can't get candied fruit there, I'm probably not going to find it anywhere else in Kansas City. So, then I head on to my local grocery store to get the rest of my groceries and there in the baking aisle is candied fruit! So, I decide to go ahead and get it knowing full well that it's probably crappy and Chowhounds will laugh at me! So, then I go home to make the little gems and halfway through realize I don't have molasses- so I'm pissed at myself and decide to hold off until tonight.
A.) Go ahead and make the fruitcakes with the candied fruit, it's not that bad? (I tasted it, but I've never had good candied fruit, so I have no comparison!)
B.) Do the quick version of fruitcake from Alton Brown that gridder posted about?
C.) Give it up and do it next year with proper timing and proper candied fruit?
You bought the fruit, might as well use it. Your Mom might not know about the "better" candied fruit anyway and think it's just fine. Next year you can do it up right and have a basis for comparison.
Hey KN just do it! It doesn't have to be perfect. Fruitcake made "incorrectly" still blesses your friends and family.
I've made fruitcake for years in various versions from bishop's bread to panforte. Unless you start in October: just make it with the candied fruit from the grocery store. It looks festive and appealing. Skip the finely chopped mixed peel stuff though. You can make a decent fruitcake with orange peel, lemon peel, candied pineapple, dates and candied cherries.
I'm at work at the moment, but later I will post my standby recipe. The fruit and nuts go in whole, and it takes less than 2 hours from start to finish. The hardest part is lining the tin with parchment.
re: Katie Nell
No, citron is a specific fruit which is candied. Most supermarkets will have small tubs of orange peel, lemon peel, citron, cherries, and maybe also pineapple, and also bigger tubs of mixed peel with cherries (often labeled as "fruitcake mix" or the like.) You should buy the single varieties rather than the mixed.
Also, feel free to substitute any mixture you prefer as long as the weight or measurement adds up - so if it calls for, say, 24 oz. of raisins and dates, and you prefer dried apricots and prunes, go ahead and substitute. (Well, don't get too carried away with the prunes, because they're so much moister than a lot of other dried fruit, but I'll vouch for them being excellent in a fruitcake.) Same with the candied fruit - feel free to adjust the balance so long as the amount adds up to the same as the recipe calls for.
I put in some "infused" dried cranberries I had around in addition to the candied fruit. Next time I want to try the pineapples. I made cookies, so I was thrilled to find fruit labelled "Olde English" which were chopped up very fine, saved me lots of work. Next time I'll pour some water over too, they do have a certain taste, although it's authentic if you're used to regular fruitcake.
re: Katie Nell
no citron is different. What I'm talking about is a large container called fruitcake mix or tutti frutti, which is finely diced fruits, with a great deal of bitter peel. yuck!
Not sure where mom found this recipe, but it's been a big hit, even with the most determined despisers of fruitcake. The batter basically serves to bind the fruits and nuts, so while you're mixing it seems a bit skimpy. Take your time.
Part of why this recipe is so easy is that it uses standard package sizes. When you buy the fruit, it's basically premeasured.
1 lb Brazil nuts
8 oz walnuts
8 oz pitted dates
8 oz golden raisins
8 oz candied cherries (red only please!)
4 oz candied orange peel
4 oz candied lemon peel or citron
4 oz candied pineapple (tidbits or rings cut into tidbits)
1 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 1/4 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 oz brandy, bourbon, or rum
Prepare pan: tube pan, well greased and bottom lined with wax paper.
Combine fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Mix flour, sugar, salt baking powder and sift over fruit. Beat eggs and brandy extract until light. Mix thoroughly. Pour into pan and press with dampened hands to compact. Bake in the center of a 300 degree oven for 2 hours. Cool several hours or overnight. Slice thinly with serrated knife.
Dang it! The fruitcake mix *is* what I bought! I might go ahead and make it as is since I already have 1/2 the recipe done, but next year, I'm going to do it for real! I'm really interested in candying my own fruit now! Thanks for all the help, and esp. the recipe shindiganna and everyone!
Here's a trick I used to use when making fruitcake, which will improve supermarket candied fruit by reducing the super-gloppy sugariness: put the fruit in a big strainer and pour about a quart of boiling water over it. Don't let it steep in hot water or anything, just give it a quick hot rinse to take away the extra sugary goo. It really helps!
BTW, for future reference the candied fruits from King Arthur/The Baker's Catalogue are excellent.
I am really not a fan of bought candied fruit and made my own this year. It is a fairly long process so I wouldn't recommend it at this point. Next year.
I didn't do all my own fruit, I went to my local health food store and bought an assortment of dried mangos, papaya, cherries, blueberries and pears and used them in my cake as well as the standard raisins, etc.
I did this last year too and it made for a wonderful cake. And to get some of the bitterness associated with fruit peel throw in some seville orange marmelade.