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As I may have mentioned a time or ten thousand here on Ricochet, I have certain auto-immune problems which include celiac disease and food allergies that preclude my eating anything with most grains. The only grain that I do not have adverse reactions to is corn (maize). But corn is definitely not wheat with its wonderful gluten properties that allow for good breads and many other baked goods.
But not all baked goods are the same. I was in a conversation here on Ricochet the other day, and the subject of fruitcakes came up. Admittedly, we started out talking about the human sorts of fruitcakes, but the holiday season is approaching. Someone threw a picture of a non-human fruitcake in that conversation, and I thought, “I bet I could make a fruitcake with corn.” If there is one thing that corn can manage just fine, it’s creating a moist, dense cake. Thus, I started on this adventure.
Since it was an experiment, I decided to dial it back from some of what I might normally do for a fruitcake. I only wanted a small batch. That is in the way of saying that this is more of a technique than a strict recipe. Feel free to add things, change things out, change the amounts, or whatever you please. Preliminaries out of the way, let’s get to what I did.
What I Did
1 16-oz. tub of Paradise Holiday Fruit Old English Fruit and Peel Mix
1 4-oz. package of pecan pieces
1 3-½ oz. package of sliced almonds
Cranberry Juice Cocktail
1 small (airline size) bottle of Jack Daniels No. 7
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Chai Tea (Stash Double Spice Chai Black Tea)
Stick of butter (4 oz.)
Sweetener (Sugar? Stevia? Honey? Whatever.)
2 cups of corn grits (I used a combination of hominy and yellow corn)
Having read a bunch of recipes, I decided the first step was to marinate the fruit and nuts. Some of the recipes suggested spiced rum or bourbon or a non-alcoholic version with orange juice. Only I didn’t have those options available, so I used cranberry juice cocktail, because it was that or V-8 as the only juice options in our fridge. I threw the fruit and peel mix and the nuts into a 2-quart pitcher and then just barely covered them with cranberry juice cocktail. (You might note a theme popping up here about how I cook. What have I got available? Sure, that will work.) I also threw in about a teaspoon of cinnamon and maybe a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg. Then I got too busy to do more than stir it around for a few days, so it marinated for two days, starting on a Sunday afternoon. On Monday, I remembered we had a very small bottle of Jack Daniels’ Bourbon my wife’s former boss had given her, so I added that in while stirring. (It should be said here that neither my wife nor I drink. So, if we’re given wine or booze, it sits for a very long time on the fridge or in a cabinet until it becomes invisible.) Then on Tuesday morning as I stirred it, I noted that the fruit and nuts were absorbing a lot of the liquid. As I had just made a large pot of Stash’s Double Spice Chai Black Tea, I poured a couple of cups into the mixture to add to the marinade and stirred again. This brought it up to about six cups of fruit, nuts, spices, and marinade in the pitcher. I continued marinating it until that afternoon.
That afternoon, I got out the big ol’ pot, the Dutch oven. I poured in three cups of Double Spice Chai Black Tea, just because it sounded better than water for this recipe. I then added a stick of butter, a teaspoon of cinnamon, about a half teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice, and maybe a quarter teaspoon each of ground cloves and allspice. I added in the ingredients of the pitcher from the fridge (fruits, nuts, spices, and marinade) and brought it up to a boil. I added some sweetener to my taste (about a quarter cup). I then slowly added two cups of corn grits, stirring while adding.
I simmered that, stirring frequently for half an hour. By this time, it was a good, thick mixture that was not at all liquid, since the corn grits had absorbed the liquids. Then I spooned it out into baking pans. In my case, I had one silicone rubber “pan” that has twelve mini loaf shapes in it. I filled that up and put the pan into the fridge to rest. I still had about half my mixture, so I did the same with a muffin pan, creating twelve fruitcake muffins along with the twelve fruitcake mini loaves. I put the muffin pan into the fridge to rest and cool along with the loaves.
That was it. No baking. It was all done on the stovetop, and I have
twenty-four, uh, twenty-one little fruitcakes to enjoy. (At the time I’m posting this to Ricochet, it is nineteen left.) They are very good and very much like a delicious, dense, moist fruitcake that uses ingredients like wheat. However, these are gluten-free, rice-free, etc.
My wife also approves of them, as she expressed when she came home last night.
As mentioned above, some recipes use spiced rum for the marinade or pure Bourbon. I’m sure there must be some other choices out there as well.
I’m looking at other recipes, and I see many ways to vary the recipe. For instance, one I am looking at has about double the fruits and nuts with different nuts, and it only has one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. And this recipe’s idea for a marinade is 1/3 cup of Bourbon or orange juice for two or three hours. You could do that, I suppose. But if you do, you’ll probably need to double the water for the grits to absorb.
Obviously, that is also a lot less spice than I used. But growing up, my favorite cake to have for my birthday was spice cake. Adjust the spices for your taste or the taste of those who will be consuming it.
Some fruitcake recipes call for using pineapple, half (or whole) cherries, or nuts to garnish the fruitcake(s). That is a matter of presentation, and might be good for if you are going to present the fruitcake at a fancy party, rather than keeping muffins or small loaves handy in the fridge to consume alone.
Another variation I see here is an Italian one. In Italy, they call corn grits “polenta,” and if one searches for recipes for polenta with fruit or nuts, one can find all sorts of possibilities. They will often use more traditional Italian seasonings, such as fennel.
Experiment and play. The main differences here are that it is fixed on the stovetop in half an hour rather than baked for three or four hours and with grits rather than wheat flour and eggs.
What will your variation be?Published in