Georgia author Johnathon Scott Barrett starts making his Christmas Fruitcake Cookies right after Thanksgiving to make sure he has plenty of homemade goodies for his neighbors and friends as well as unexpected guests.
Barrett is the author of the newly released “Cook and Tell: Recipes and Stories from Southern Kitchens,” and “Rise and Shine! A Southern Son’s Treasury of Food, Family, and Friends.” Both books are published by Mercer University Press.
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We asked him about the story behind his fruitcake cookies. Here’s what he told us in an email, and he shared the recipe that’s been in his family for generations.
“My mother made fruitcake cookies from the time she was a young girl growing up in the small, stop-in-the-road hamlet of Clinchfield, Ga. This baking became a holiday ritual for our family and my sister, and I would listen as Mama would tell stories about Christmases from those days before WWII as we chopped the nuts and fruit.
“Mama made several batches of these delicacies each year, and besides keeping a large jar of them ready to share with family, she also gave them away as Christmas presents. The containers would be decorated cookie tins she’d buy at the local dime store; her favorites were the ones that featured a bright red cardinal sitting on a branch of a holly or pine tree. Mama would line the tins with waxed paper and gently layer the cookies inside, and give them away with the love that came out of her kitchen.
“My Mom passed away five years ago, and I have continued this tradition. I scout out rummage sales for vintage tins to use, and run across them occasionally at some of the old-fashioned dollar stores that continue on. I’ve also used quart-sized Mason jars as containers, which I wrap with green and red raffia and a sprig of cedar or holly. You can also place them in a sealed plastic bag, set it in the middle of a holiday dish towel, and tie the towel up with a festive holiday ribbon.”
More recipes from Johnathon Barrett can be found at johnathonscottbarrett.com.
Mama’s Christmas Fruitcake Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, or a mixture of both
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
16 ounces candied pineapple, chopped
16 ounces candied cherries, chopped
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease 2 or 3 cookie sheets, depending on size.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking soda; set aside.
Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Beat the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, adding 1/2 cup or so at a time. Alternate the flour with a couple of tablespoons of the whole milk. Beat until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in the vanilla extract. Fold into the mixture the nuts, raisins, dates, pineapple and cherries. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheets.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom. Be careful not to overcook.
Yields: 8 or 9 dozen cookies