Yesterday afternoon, CHRISTMAS MOURNING was finally and officially launched at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh. The only reason my signing could be rescheduled so quickly after my accident is because three of the major colleges in the area had football games and QRB’s canny events coordinator knows that can mean snarled traffic on I-40.
Despite the games, there was a good turnout and we served small nuggets of fruitcake and steaming cups of coffee. There were the usual snide remarks about fruitcake, followed by questions about Kezzie’s peach brandy that Deborah’s Aunt Zell uses to keep her cakes moist. I observed that rum or bourbon could work too. “So is yours drenched in rum or bourbon?” store owner Nancy Olson asked.
“Not rum,” I said. It took a moment for my answer to sink in amid the laughter.
Until now, HIGH COUNTRY FALL has occasioned the most requests for recipes, but I have a feeling this book is going to get its share. So many people have already asked about the chocolate covered fried pecans and for the bourbon balls that I’m going to give the recipes here so that those who want to can go ahead and make the bourbon balls now and let them ripen.
Pour ½ cup bourbon over 1 cup finely chopped pecans in an airtight container and let soak overnight. Next day, thoroughly combine 3 cups of crushed vanilla wafers, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 stick of softened butter.
Add pecans, bourbon and all, plus another ½ cup of bourbon.
Stir well and form into balls about half the size of a golf ball. Chill until hardened.
Melt together a 12-oz bag of chocolate chips, a half-stick of butter, and 1 oz. of bar paraffin.
Working quickly, dip the chilled balls in the chocolate and place on a cookie rack over a sheet of waxed paper. Drips can be scraped up and remelted as needed.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Makes about 45.
Chocolate-Covered Fried Pecans
Melt half a stick of butter in a large iron frying pan. Add 2 cups pecan halves. Over moderate heat, stir constantly. Remove from heat before the nuts are completely toasted because they will continue to coof for another minute or two. Salt and chill.
Melt together chocolate chips, butter, and a tiny bit of paraffin. (Amounts depend on whether you want to thoroughly coat the nuts or use just enough to get the full contrast of sweet and salt, my preference.)
Line 2 large baking sheets with waxed paper. Spread the pecans on the waxed paper, one layer deep, and drizzle the chocolate over them. Chill. When hardened, break up into chunks and store in an airtight tin.
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And for what it’s worth, if you don’t have an Aunt Zell to bake you a fruitcake, almost any good commercial cake will improve with age if you wrap it in cheesecloth four or five weeks before serving and keep the cheesecloth well-moistened with bourbon or rum or—if you must—even apple juice.)