Monday, August 18, 2014

Poor Man's Fruitcake

I come from a long line of Okies.  Nothing derogatory about that, just facts. Most of my ancestors are from Oklahoma, they struggled through and survived the Great Depression. As a result, they learned how to be thrifty and industrious, especially when it came to food. They grew their own fruits and vegetables, canned them, slaughtered livestock, saved and re-purposed everything.  They had no choice, had to do that to survive and by doing so, they acquired many good skills and traits that inadvertently passed down to the younger generations.

Besides my parents, the most influential Okie in my life was my Grandma McGee. She saved all her leftover food.  I used to laugh when I'd open her refrigerator because there would be all kinds of plastic containers filled with a spoonful or two of something. She didn't waste them, they became lunch the next day. Her pantry was full of canned goods, her freezer full of meats and other products that she stocked up on when on sale. If she was given a bag or box of fruit she would drop everything and get out the canning equipment, nothing must be wasted! She had a drawer full of leftover wrapping paper, neatly folded to be used again. Scraps of material became quilts. Buttons from worn-out clothes were taken off and saved in her button jar and would be seen on another article of clothing in the future.

She's been on my mind a lot these last few weeks.  We have an espalier apple tree, it is grafted with six different varieties of apples.  I'm not a farmer and it's hard for this accountant to tell when apples are ready for harvest.  My Hubbers and I noticed a few on the ground, so we started picking.  Soon we had over two dozen apples. I didn't feel like baking anything at the time and knew we wouldn't eat that many apples before they went bad. I could hear Grandma telling me not to waste anything.  So I went in and made applesauce, just the way she taught me. There is no recipe for this, it's more a method.  Peel, core and slice apples and put in large pan, add 1/4 cup water to keep the apples from sticking to the pan, adding more if needed.  Cook, stirring often, until soft.  Add sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste (I usually add during the cooking process and adjust afterwards).  I like my applesauce lumpy.  A food processor or immersion blender can be used to make smoother applesauce.
It helps to have an apple peeler and assistant when working with a lot of apples! Thank you, Hubbers!

Just put the apples in a pan and cook until you get a soft consistency.

Homemade applesauce is so much better than store-bought!
I ended up with a pretty good-sized bowl of applesauce.  After about a week of eating it, I was tired of it.  I really should have canned some of it to begin with but was too lazy that day! Then I thought of Grandma again.  She made a loaf cake using applesauce that she called Poor Man's Fruitcake.  I have no idea where the name came from but I've always loved it. It recalls my Okie roots, poor people can have fruitcake, too (thankfully, this doesn't taste like traditional Christmas-time fruitcake)! I baked mine in a loaf pan, I seem to recall Grandma would sometimes bake hers in a tube pan.  Store-bought applesauce can be used and the seasonings can be adjusted to taste.  My applesauce had cinnamon in it and I added more in the cake batter, making for a very dark cake. I took it to the office today and had some with my morning tea, shared some with a client. It was the perfect mid-morning treat!
Grandma would've been proud of my thriftiness with these apples, not one was wasted! We still have more apples on the tree, I will be making and canning applesauce soon!
Poor Man's Fruitcake

One stick butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups applesauce
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan.

Blend together butter and sugar until creamy.  Add 2 cups applesauce and mix until blended. Add flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Mix until just blended. Stir in raisins and walnuts.

Pour into loaf pan.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan and finish cooling.

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