Foods preserved in alcohol are "brandied." Wines and foods containing over 14 percent alcohol by volume are self-preserving. Wines and foods with a weaker concentration of alcohol can become sour and vinegary. Brandied food should be kept cool and airtight. Burying it deep in the ground works well. The trouble with preserving food by brandying is that it will give you a hangover. I'd hate to have to get drunk to eat.
Incidentally, many people hold very strong opinions for or against the use of alcohol. Some of my best friends wouldn't let the stuff in their homes in the form of tutti-frutti or anything else. I have sympathy with that point of view. I don't see any excuse for debauching, because it is invariably damaging to something. So for me the most significant thing about brandied fruit, for better or for worse, is that it has an alcohol content. It makes a heady dessert— and not one that children can have very much of—so you don't need much for a winter's supply. Tutti-frutti is the most common and versatile sort, because you can eat it straight, use it for an ice cream or general dessert topping, or make a sort of fruit cake out of it (actually better than eating it straight).
Incidentally, baking or boiling evaporate most, but not all, of the alcohol in any recipe. Despite the cooking, 10-15 percent of the alcohol will remain. You can indeed get intoxicated from fruit cake—if you eat enough of it.
<i> EARLEN'S TUTTI-FRUTTI You can start with I A c. fruit and I Ai c. sugar. For your first mixture, half-drained crushed pineapple and half-drained chopped canned peaches are good, along with 6 chopped maraschino cherries. (Peaches brandy best and after them cherries.) A package of dry yeast stirred in helps to get the fermentation off to a quick start Stir it several times the first day. At least every 2 weeks after that add I more c. sugar and I more c. fruit Alternate your fruit so you don't end up with all the same thing. Don't put it in the refrigerator, but don't have it too near the heat either.
Once you get it going, you can give a cup of "starter" to friends, who can soon work up their own supply of tutti-frutti from it The mixture is at its best after 4 weeks have passed. You can take out fruit to use as needed, but try not to let what's left get below I cup. To have more, just add more fruit and sugar ahead of schedule. You can use fresh, canned, or frozen fruits such as Bing cherries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears, or fruit cocktail as well as the first ones I mentioned. But if pears and fruit cocktail are used, treat them gently so they don't become too mushy. Don't use bananas.
Be sure to keep the fruit under the liquid. You can use a weighted saucer to hold it down. Fruit exposed to air will darken in color and taste too fermented.
<i> OLD-TIME TUTTI-FRUTTI The first recipe I gave you is quite common around the country now and implies some city-type living with the maraschino cherries and pineapple.
Here's a way to make tutti-frutti from your own garden and orchard, a sack of sugar, and a cup of brandy.
Start this at the beginning of the fruit season. Strawberries are probably the first fruits you'll have and are great for this purpose. You can start in a jar and transfer to a crock as your supply grows. I'd suggest keeping it in the coolest place you can find during the summer. As the season goes on, add cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines, and peaches. Avoid apples, pears, melons, and blackberries.
Into the jar put I c. very good brandy, rum, or cognac, I c. sugar, and I c. fruit Stir and let rest Don't refrigerate. Cover to keep the dust out but don't seal. As each new fruit comes along, add it and more sugar, at the rate of I c. sugar per I c. fruit You don't need more brandy. Cut large fruit into small pieces and stir well at each addition. Take out pits and seeds where appropriate.
If you figure 3 months for it to mature, it will be about ready by Christmas time. Serve over plain pudding, cake, or ice cream. Or make a fruit cake or a holiday fruit bread with it
<i> ALMOST-INSTANT BRANDIED FRUIT Use canned fruit Apricots, peaches, pears, and so on are all right Save the juice from the fruit and boil it down to half the original amount Add I part brandy to 2 parts of your boiled-down syrup and pour that over the fruit Let it rest at least 24 hours before serving to let the fruit absorb the flavor.
<i> RUM-BRANDIED FRUIT You can also make brandied fruit using rum. Mix 2 c. well-drained fruit with 2 c. sugar. Cover well with rum. It takes about I Vi cups, just as in the other recipes, you then can add more fruit and sugar every week or two to keep it going.
<i> TUTTI-FRUTTI ICECREAM Soften store-bought vanilla ice cream or make your own. At the very end, add tutti-frutti and refreeze or freeze.
<i> TUTTI-FRUTTI FRUITCAKE Mash A c. butter together with I c. sugar until well mixed. Add 4 eggs, 3 c. flour, 2 t soda, I t. cloves, I t. allspice, 2 c. your brandied fruit of any sort I A'i c. applesauce, I c. raisins, and I c. nuts. This bakes best in an angel food-type pan because it is very moist— a buttered 9-inch tube pan would be right It takes a long time to bake—70 or 80 minutes or more in a moderate oven (350°F).
<i> COMB/NAT/ON SPICING AND BRANDYING OF PEACHES
Peel about 4 lb. peaches. Dissolve 4 lb. sugar in 3 c. water. To spice with cloves alone, insert 2 whole cloves in each peach. To spice with cinnamon and cloves, put I T. stick cinnamon and I T. of whole cloves into a spice bag and boil with the syrup. Put in the fruit a little at a time and boil each 5 minutes. When done, remove the fruit to jars and boil the syrup about 10 minutes, or until thick. Pour syrup over the fruit to fill the jar two-thirds full and then finish filling with brandy. Remove the spice bag when syrup suits your taste test for spiciness.
<i> RUMMED BLACKBERRY JUICE Steam 4 A qt. blackberries until the juice starts to flow. Strain in a cheesecloth bag until you get all the juice you can. Add the juice of 3 lemons and 4 oranges to the blackberry juice. Bring to a boil what you have left of the blackberries with 6 c. water; strain again and add that to your juice. Add 2 c. sugar. Now bring juice just to a boil and add 2 c. rum. Can or bottle it. (You could substitute brandy.)
<i> BRANDIED CHERRIES Boil 5 c. sugar with 2 c. water for 12 minutes, or until you have a clear syrup. Pour that syrup over 5 lb. cherries (the small sour kind) and let stand overnight Drain off the syrup and boil it again. Add cherries and boil about 5 more minutes. Take out cherries with a skimmer (the kind with holes in it to let the juice drain away) and put the cherries into canning jars. Boil the syrup down 15 more minutes. It should be getting pretty thick. Add 2 c. brandy. Remove from heat. Pour over cherries and seal.
<i> BURIED BRANDIED PEACHES I think the very best brandied fruit of all is made by this recipe. I found it in an antique book, and Mike and I tried it out of curiosity. I imagine it would work with any fruit although we used peaches. This recipe needs no brandy, only fruit and sugar. Choose fine, ripe, very sweet peaches. They must not have bad spots. Peel them. Cover with whole peaches the bottom of something you can bury. Pour in enough sugar to cover them. Add more peaches and then more sugar in the same manner, until you are out of peaches or room in your container. Cover very tightly, but not absolutely airtight and bury in the ground for 4 months or more. We put ours about 3 feet down, which made the top of it about 2 feet down. Mark the spot so you'll know where to dig it up.
I was really afraid dirt would get into it but not one speck did. We put it down in peach season, just outside the back door, and dug it up for Thanksgiving (which isn't a full 4 months). The floating top layer, the part that was out of the liquid, was discolored and yucky-looking from oxidation. We threw that away. What was left was brandied peaches of a quality the likes of which I'd never seen before. The peaches' color was perfectly preserved; they looked just as they had the day we put them in.
But they darkened very fast when exposed to air; within 24 hours we could see and taste the difference as they commenced to deteriorate. Apparently exposure to air was causing the trouble. If I had it to do over, I'd reseal them in smaller jars as soon as we dug them up and just open them as needed, so there would be as little exposure to air before serving as possible. You absolutely must keep any brandied (or spiced) fruit below the liquid and out of the air, but this stuff was even affected by the exposure of the liquid to the air.
I think the temperature control also helped make it good. I imagine if you sealed a crock of tutti-frutti and buried it the same way for 3 months, it would do as well, because the temperature underground is evenly cool but not too cold— especially early in the season, when above ground it's hot. Brandied fruit made from scratch needs a cool temperature, since you don't have the help of the preservatives that are in store-bought foods.
February 1975. Dolly had hurt her knee, went to the doctor, and got a crutch. I thought then she'd soon be fine. I had no idea that the next morning she would be unable to walk on the remaining good leg. Subsequently, both arms went bad, then neck and back. It all turned out happily in the end, but the end was much longer in coming than I had expected. She's much, much better now than she was in the middle of January, when there were days when she could not use her hands even to turn the pages of a book or to feed herself. In fact, she seems very nearly well again.
The doctors predict she is almost certain to suffer another, worse attack within a relatively short time. But that's doctor thinking for you. As far as I'm concerned, it's over and done. Dolly is well now, and she's going to stay well. I'm going to take such good care of her that the old bug, whatever it is, doesn't have a chance. And this isn't the first time my opinion parted company with the doctor's and I won. There's too much at stake here for me to agree with something like that. God will guide my hand in nursing her, and He's the greatest Physician of them all. [She never did have an attack of arthritis again. Dolly's nearly 30 now, married, with children of her own.]
I used to have a section about making candy—but I had to cut it (not enough space). It had the basics like taffy, and some fancier things too. But making hand-dipped chocolates and marzipan and other fancy candies belongs more to arts and crafts than to cooking, I think. I can't really reconcile myself to the notion of spending all that time and labor to make something so beautiful and then opening my mouth and wiping it out. Same for cake decorating. I enjoy the fancy decorated cookies the grandmas around here make for Christmas. But when people have the creative urge, you just have to get out of their way and let them go. I used to write poetry, and maybe that's just as useless a product as a cookie or cake decoration—and maybe more so because it isn't even edible. I tried to sell my poems by mail once. Out of a mailing of several hundred, 2 dear people responded—more to keep my morale up, I think, than for the sake of the poems.
When Mike was a student in the big city, I used to take my poems down to a street corner in Greenwich Village (along with a baby or two), put on a great big sandwich board that said "Poems for Sale" on each side and sell copies for 25 to 50 cents apiece. (Mike priced them for me.) I barely made enough to pay my bus fare and buy lunch, but it was really beautiful just standing there sharing my work all day with people who came to read my notebooks and pick out one or two poems that would really go home and live with them and become a part of their lives. That was the only thing I've ever missed about New York— selling poems. I never was one to write in an ivory tower. I needed people to react to what I was writing. Their reactions provided a sonar for me as I swam through the literary waters, guiding me to a better and better result—better because it meant more to them. Though I've always written something or other, it's best when there is a real human being on the receiving end who can laugh and care and learn something they really want to know.
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