Sunday, December 9, 2012

Soaking in Rum and Wine

Another long absence, but I am finally present. How have you all been?

Feeling glad to be here again. The usual job stresses multiplied a million fold; such are the perils of working in the media. So, I made a deal with myself to jump back into my other love, which is cooking and creating delicious things to eat and enjoy.

This year, I am going to revisit my Granny’s special black cake. It’s one that I have really fond memories of, because when I was little, she used to bake them on order for family, friends and clients. As was the custom of “employing” the children around to keep them out of trouble, I was her helper. I would break the eggs for her, peel the lime rind, measure the flour, sugar and butter… and I can never forget the sound of her wooden spoon scraping against the giant white plastic bucket she used to mix the batter. Incidentally, her son (my late uncle) was a boss cake maker himself, and I used to look forward to when he visited, because they would have an annual cake exchange. He would make a black cake especially for her, and she’d make one for him. They would sit together in the kitchen at the old wooden table, and cut a slice from each other’s cakes, sip on some ginger beer and chat about their recipes and whatever else struck their fancy.

And so, I am getting the ball rolling. Step one – getting the preserved fruits together for the soaking process – is always a fun one for me. Step two? Come take a look and see.

The stars of this cake are prunes, mixed peel (citron), raisins, and glazed fruits. I’m using just 8 ounces of each for my cakes.

Can’t forget the bottle of maraschino cherries, now!

The next step was to wash and de-seed the prunes. I gave the raisins a good washing as well. Back in the day Granny would spread the fruits on a platter and put them out in the sun to dry. I dispensed with this step since it was rainy. (By the way, that remainder of raisins won’t be going to waste… pastelles will soon be calling!)

Next, I opened the packs of glazed fruits and mixed peel. The bottle of cherries was opened, drained and cut into fourths.

Got my giant bowl and potspoon and mixed all the fruits together into a bright, colourful mass.
My giant 62 ounce glass bottle was on the ready, having been cleaned well beforehand. I also had another smaller bottle as a backup, just in case. So, I started spooning the fruit in.

Rule number 34… always fill the bottle to roughly three quarters with fruit. This is because that preserved fruit is going to be sucking in that alcohol which will make it swell, and when things swell, they require room. Thus, the backup bottle was called in to hold the remainder. Like its big brother, it too was filled to three quarters of the way.

And here are the big boys… Fernandes Black Label dark rum and Charlie’s Red Spanish Wine. These are the only two things Granny soaked her fruits in. If she couldn’t find Charlie’s, she would use Cherry brandy, but Charlie’s was always her first pick.

In my bowl, the dark rum and the Spanish wine were combined and then decanted into the waiting bottles of fruit. 

Hmmm… looks like this bottle’s getting all tipsy!

Lastly, I covered the bottles tightly and gently tilted them from side to side to make sure all the fruit can move around. And that was that. 

As it stands, I will be checking on them every day to see how they’re doing. They will soak for at least a week to 10 days or so, but they will be good to go by the time I’m ready to bake the cakes.
Since putting these bottles down, the levels of the fruits have already risen a couple of inches, believe it or not. Take a look for yourself.

The fruits are rising!

See why we left that space? Grannies always know what they’re talking about!

And so, I hope you enjoyed sharing this part of the black cake prep. There will be more steps to come and I plan to document them all for you to enjoy. 

Take care, my dears, and like I always say, doh forget to mind the pot!

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