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Resurrecting a Christmas Recipe: P.S. It Was Wonderful

on December 26, 2016

The other day I saw a neighbor in my apartment building carrying a box with a fruit cake inside. My mother made a fruit cake for Christmas every summer and soaked it with whisky once a month until Christmas Day. It became a strong Christmas tradition. My neighbor said that her mother also made a Christmas fruit cake and now she was using the family recipe to bake her holiday dessert.

I tried to think what I made for my family’s Christmas dessert and could only recall baking chocolate chip cookies. Surely I made something fancier. I asked my sons what our Christmas dessert was. All three responded instantly “cranberry jewel”. Then I remembered. It was a recipe I had clipped from the newspaper or a magazine and no longer had in my recipe file. My son Donovan told me he had a handwritten copy of the recipe that I had mailed him years ago. He emailed it to me. The following is our email dialogue on the subject of the recipe for cranberry jewel.

Original message from Donovan to me, Dec.15. Subject:cranberry jewel.
2 cups oatmeal
2/3 cup nuts
2/3 stick butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup white sugar
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups cranberry
1 8 oz pin
1 cup whip cream
bake nut mix at 350; leave for the top

That’s what I have. I don’t know what a pin is. Could it be condensed milk?

Mom’s Reply: Dec. 16
Donovan, it doesn’t give the baking time for the oatmeal crust/topping?

Donovan: Dec.18. 3:32 PM: Subject: Pin = Pineapple!

Mom: Dec.18. 6 PM
I like that! Do you remember tasting pineapple in the dessert? I think it would taste good and that does make sense.

Donovan: Dec.18. 11:22 PM: Re: Pin = Pineapple!
Yes, I do remember it. Though I did range through a few more recipes before I could remember that.

Mom: Dec.19. 8:05 AM
I think I remember toasting the chopped walnuts and oatmeal on a bread pan then mixing it with softened butter and brown sugar. Then lining my rectangular glass dish with foil and patting the crust/topping mixture in the dish and freezing it – saving a portion for a topping. Figuring out cranberry jewel is like reverse archaeology.

Donovan: Dec.20. 3:23 PM Subject: Re:Pin = Pineapple! UPDATE
I hate to over analyze this but I think it’s foil on the bottom and the nut mix on the top. I know the recipe states the nut mix is “topping” but I have some memory of a nutty crust, so that’s what I said to you yesterday morning.

If you find out the timing on baking the nuts from your friend, plz let me know!.

Mom: Dec.20. 6:28 PM
Well it does say “topping”. That makes sense, especially if the ingredients turn out to make only a small portion. I asked a neighbor, whose hand mixer I am borrowing to whip the whip cream, about how long to toast the oatmeal/nuts in the oven. She said only a short time. If I over-cook it I can start over. I have lots of nuts and a whole box of oatmeal. I will put the mixture of cranberries, cream cheese, etc. in the foil-lined pan, the topping on top, and freeze everything at once. I think I remember doing that. I’ll let you know how long to bake the nuts and oatmeal after I experiment.

P.S.The hand mixer I ordered from Amazon was junk so I returned it.

(An aha! moment. After I wrote the texts of the emails between my son and me I realized what Donovan was saying under the subject: Pin=pineapple! UPDATE. The “topping” goes in the foil-lined glass dish first as a bottom crust. I wonder if I freeze the crust? Then the cream cheese, cranberries, crushed pineapple etc. mixture goes on top of the crust. Finally I crumble some of the oatmeal/nut mixture on top of that and store the cranberry jewel in the refrigerator freezer.)

Happy Holidays!

P.S. After experimenting with different sized pans, deciding to combine the oatmeal and walnuts with the melted butter and brown sugar, how long to keep the oatmeal, walnut, butter and brown sugar mixture in the oven (ten minutes), and being afraid that I had forgotten how to whip the whip cream (I hadn’t) the finished product of my cranberry jewel dessert was fabulous!

19 responses to “Resurrecting a Christmas Recipe: P.S. It Was Wonderful

  1. Scott says:

    I like your post. And I also like fruit cake. My mother was a non-drinker, period. My wife once made a cake with wine in it. Mom remarked how good it was and asked what was in it. After Barb told her wine she wiped her forehead with a napkin. “I thought I felt a little woozy,” she said.

  2. Plakshi Jain says:

    Sweet Christmas nostalgia.

  3. I absolutely loved these lines together…” soaked it with whisky once a month until Christmas Day. It became a strong Christmas tradition.” No doubt! Lol.
    I especially loved the email exchange between you and your son. What a cool son to help you figure it out, and, no doubt, because he wants it again. Sons are like that. My annual box of banana bread and chocolate chip cookies went in the mail to my son in Florida. And yes, either freezing or chilling the bottom crust sounds right to me. So off you go to experiment and see what comes of it. And telling your sons you are making it just might make them hurry home! With love and Christmas greetings and peace to you. J.

  4. vivachange77 says:

    I love your response! You made me remember that I also baked banana bread. We had it with Christmas breakfast. Donovan is going to fix cranberry jewel for his family in Minneapolis. I do think we are reviving a tradition. Thanks for your suggestion about freezing the bottom crust. Blessings for Christmas with love. V.

  5. Christy B says:

    I love that you included the email conversation too 😉 It’s great that your kids all remember this dessert… Which sounds delicious, by the way!

  6. vivachange77 says:

    It is interesting that my sons remembered it and I had forgotten. I plan to make it tomorrow. It is delicious. Thanks for your comment. ❤

  7. You’ll have to let us know if this resurrected recipe is a success Ina 🙂

  8. vivachange77 says:

    Andrea, I made it today and am satisfied. It is delicious. The recipe lacked specificity but Google answered questions, as well as directions on packaging.

  9. So nice such lovely memories

  10. Daal says:

    I can’t imagine why some people don’t like fruitcakes

  11. hbsuefred says:

    In order for me to enjoy ANY fruitcake, it certainly would have to have enough alcohol to deaden my taste buds before taking the first bite. Perhaps your mom’s had reached that state of deliciousness, or at least alcohol absorption, by the time the last soak was finished?

    We have one recipe that is a passed down family tradition from my late mother-in-law. I’ve emailed it to my daughters a time or two but, sometime since the last time we all ate it together on a holiday, I forgot where I put the index card onto which it was originally copied by Daughter #1, and of course I wouldn’t expect either of my girls to have access to what I’d sent them anymore. I’d put the card, which I can recognize by sight before reading it, somewhere where I thought I’d remember but of course that location was not accessible in my pea brain, either. BTW, the recipe was for creamed peas and Daughter #1, being the millenial that she is, found a recipe on the internet that was close enough for our tastes.

    I like the sound of your cranberry recipe and will try to keep track of it to possibly attempt during the holidays next year.

    • vivachange77 says:

      So we’re not the only family who has lost a holiday recipe and tried to recover it. When my son made the dessert his wife, who is Indian and a marvelous cook, had additions in general to offer that she learned in her mother’s kitchen. My dessert and my son’s were equally delicious. I think the ingredients are infallible.

  12. Meredith says:

    Oh, yummy. I must try this!

  13. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks. It really turned out well.

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