Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

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

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!