Reporters love to get calls, e-mails and letters - even those telling us about a typo, errant use of grammar or a missed ingredient in a recipe. It means people are reading and care enough to let us know. But once in awhile, it's more than that. It's a connection, and readers want to tell us how we affected their lives.
Last year, I wrote about fruitcake and the memories that the hated-of-all-holiday-treats elicit for people. The recipe we ran was from a Dixon couple who had made more than 30 pounds of fruitcake every year since 1954, a year into their marriage that would bring six kids, 17 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren on the last count. It got tougher to keep up the fruitcakes over the years, once Coralie Granger became blind and required the use of a wheelchair. But under her direction, and the recipe he would read aloud to her, Leonard Granger would measure, mix and bake - and the tradition continued.
"You can't mix it with the electric mixer," Leonard told me then. "So it's mixing with your arm. And I'm left handed, but when that gets tired, I try my right hand. Then I use my left hand."
It was a sad day in late November when I received an obituary in the mail. Leonard's note said the tradition had been broken since Coralie was in the hospital when they normally would make the fruitcake, and then she died Nov. 11, 2008. She was 73. But Coralie was happy her recipe ran in the paper last year, even to the chagrin of their children who were never entrusted with it, Leonard said.
I wrote a card offering my condolences and hoping that Leonard would keep up the fruitcake tradition, if only in Coralie's memory. And I was incredibly touched today when I got a package in the mail, complete with two fruitcakes and a note saying that he went out and bought all the ingredients and got "Coralie's memory fruitcake" in the mail this year, if a little later than usual.
Here is their recipe:
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Makes 10 fruitcakes
This is Leonard and Coralie Granger's foolproof recipe for fruitcake. Since 1954, the Dixon couple have made more than 30 pounds of fruitcake each year, and they swear their friends and relatives who receive it as gifts beg for more.
1 pound butter
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup brandy *
5 cups flour *
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound mixed glazed fruit
1 pound dates
1 pound raisins
1 pound walnuts
3 large bottles maraschino cherries
* Additional amounts of these items are needed.
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Add honey, molasses and brandy; mix well.
In a large bowl, sift flour and spices together and add to batter.
Separately, coat the mixed glazed fruit, dried fruit, nuts and cherries in additional flour. Add to batter.
Mix well and then divide into 10 1-pound pans.
Place a pan of water in bottom of oven to keep cakes from browning. Bake at 300 degrees for 55 minutes, then check to see if a toothpick or knife inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. If not, check again every 15 minutes until the toothpick or knife comes out clean.
Cool overnight and then remove from pans and wrap in cheesecloths soaked in additional brandy. Place in airtight container with more brandy-soaked towels on top.
Allow to soak for two weeks or longer.