Fruit and Fruitcake
By Leona Lueders
Leona Lueders was born in Honolulu and is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools. She now lives in Federal Way, Washington and dances with Hālau Keala O Kamailelauili`ili`i.
It’s a little strange since I don’t have a garden, but I do have a harvest. These are persimmons from a friend who has three trees in her yard. I’m going to have to search for the one persimmon recipe I have.
1 c. persimmon pulp
glaze: 1 c. powdered sugar and 2 Tbs. lemon juice
Mix pulp with juice & baking soda; set aside. Lightly beat eggs, stir in sugar, oil & dates. Combine dry ingredients. Add to egg mixture alternately with persimmon. Mix, stir just to blend. Add nuts. Spread evenly in 10 x 15 jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Add lemon glaze.
Glaze: combine powdered sugar and lemon juice.
(It takes 2 large persimmons or 3 medium fruit for 1 cup of pulp. Cut into 2 inch squares and enjoy. This freezes well.)
I happen to have an idea for fruitcake too. I got some dates, raisins and walnuts and decided to substitute the candied fruit (citrons, etc. and other glaced and jellied fruit—yukh!) with dried mango, apricots, papaya and pineapple, a little bit of shredded coconut and some macadamia nuts. There is another hour of baking at low heat before the fruitcake is done and it’s already after midnight. I’m taking a chance on the fact that I set the oven timer which should turn off at 1am.
1 c. vegetable oil
*hint--I use 7 cups of cut up dried fruit including raisins, dates, apricots, mango, pineapple, papaya, coconut and a cup of nuts including chopped macadamias and walnuts.
Heat oven to 275º. Dredge fruit and nuts with 1 c. flour. Line 2 loaf pans with heavy paper (I use brown paper grocery bags).
Mix oil, sugar, eggs and molasses. Beat 2 min. Blend 2 c. flour, baking powder, salt and spices; stir into oil mixture alternately with fruit juice. Pour batter over fruit, mixing well. Pour into pans. Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hr. Let stand 15 min. before removing from pans. Cool thoroughly on racks without removing paper. Wrap in aluminum foil and store to ripen in cool place. Refrigerate after cake has been cut.
We may take down three hemlocks in the front yard and use one of them for our Christmas tree… Christmas is coming!
Manna in the desert, water into wine, loaves and fishes…prune mui?! Yes, one Christmas we were indeed blessed by a mui miracle.
Ah, the delectable li hing mui. It’s the perfect sweet and sour treat. My Mexican father introduced me to this mouthwatering delight when I was a child. He must have been given some by a Chinese co-worker on Fisherman’s Wharf where he worked as a waiter. I was immediately smitten.
As a teenager, I combed San Francisco’s Chinatown sampling all manner of dried, shriveled, powder-coated plums trying to recapture that first shiver, but I had no luck. They were all too sweet, too salty or too pungent with licorice. Like Goldilocks, I was in search of the one that was just right.
Decades later, having relocated to Seattle, I encountered Soft Li Hing Mui at Hawai’i General Store. It was perfect! That was the pucker-inducing taste I’d been missing. I couldn’t stop eating them, and I made sure I always had a bag in my backpack for emergencies. The inside of my mouth was perpetually yet delightfully rubbed raw. And then, while perusing a cookbook, I happened upon a recipe!
“You know what we should do?” I told my friend and mui aficionado Duane. “We should make our own mui for Christmas!” No convincing was necessary. We set out concocting prune mui with a Northwest twist. We scanned the shelves at Trader Joe’s as well as tables at neighborhood Farmers Markets for dried fruits typical of the Pacific Northwest and made our first batch. It was bejeweled with cranberries, blueberries and cherries which glistened from within quilted glass jelly jars.
That Christmas, Duane took a dozen jars home to Hawai’i to distribute among his family members.
“How’d the mui go over?” I anxiously inquired upon his return.
“Oh, they didn’t try it,” he explained. “They would never eat it in front of me in case it was junk.”
So we waited. Finally in February, Aunty Jasmine opened her jar. She proclaimed it to be the best prune mui she’d ever tasted, and she’s Chinese! The other recipients proceeded sampling and devouring theirs. By March, inquiries were being phoned in. “Is there any more of that mui lying around?” They’d ask. We had to assemble an Easter batch and then a summer one just to keep them satisfied, and each incarnation boasted a different medley of fruits. We added dried peaches, nectarines, apples, pears and kiwi and once even found some poha. The most exotic find, however, was dried lychee. You haven’t lived until you’ve happened upon a morsel of lychee in a mélange of mui.
By the following Christmas, we really had the system down. We laid out all the ingredients and began to work our own brand of mui magic. That is until it was time to add the lemon juice. We had been madly juicing fresh lemons and tossing the reamed rinds into a pile. We’d gone through a whole bag of lemons, and we were still short a quarter cup of juice. It was too late to stop the process or go out and buy more lemons. “All we need is one more lemon,” I moaned.
Duane decided to try to re-squeeze the used halves in order to come up with the necessary amount. It was no use. They were already squeezed dry, but he persisted. Lo and behold, a whole lemon lay beneath the pile of peels! It gave us exactly the quarter cup of juice we needed to complete the batch. Our tradition would live on.
Christmas is a season of miracles, and that, my friends, is the miracle of the mui.
Ka`imioka`ono travels the globe in search of delicious foods, their recipes, and the stories behind them.
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