For me, the most meaningful reunion was my mother's family's annual Christmas gathering, held on the evening of Christmas Day at my Grandma Lindbeck's home White Bear Lake. Louise Lindbeck was the mother of 12, and grandmother to 42. The whole family came to Christmas at Grandma's - her children, their spouses, her grandchildren, and other relatives of the "shirt-tail" variety.
The house was small, and the party noisy, with most everyone standing around sharing life updates. We'd make many trips to the dining room or kitchen tables, where each family's contribution to the table - a signature dish, usually, was set out. There was Swedish rye bread for the ham sandwich platter (Grandma), apple squares (Aunt Harriet), German potato salad (Aunt Lou), orange fluff (Aunt Lois), rosettes (Aunt Margaret), sliced fruit (Aunt Claire), a tray of sandbakkel, spritz, and other Scandinavian cookies (Aunt Louann) are a few I remember.
My mother brought the fruitcake. It was my grandmother's recipe, who had made it for the holiday gathering when her kids were young. At some point in time my mother took over the job of making it for the Christmas gathering. It was dark, raison-y, with more cake and less candied peel than I seen in store bought cakes. She made two or three 4 lb batches each year, starting just after Thanksgiving. She used a couple of large loaf pans lined with paper from grocery sacks. She'd soak them in wine, then cut the loaves down to thirds or quarters (keeping the brown paper on), wrap them tight in wax paper and tie them with ribbon. Those bundles would sit in her cupboard "to age" until she needed a hostess gift or a contribution for someone's holiday table.
Cut the dates into thirds, halve the cherries. Place all fruit and peel in a bowl, sift the flour, salt, spices & soda over fruit and mix with fingers. Using a second bowl and mixer, Cream the butter. Add the sugar to the butter gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, to butter and sugar mix, and mix well after each. Using a wooden spoon or spatula to stir, add the flour, molasses and coffee alternately (two rounds of additions). Pour batter into 4 - 6 small paper loaf or bundt shaped pans (grease these pans a head oftime). Bake for approximately 1 hour in a slow (275 F) oven, until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. When the cakes have cooled, use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the cake, 1 -1.5 inches apart. Then pour wine over the cake (2-4 tablespoons), letting it seep in. Wrap in waxed paper and store in fridge. In a day or two, unwrap the cakes and pour wine over the cakes again. Rewrap the loaves and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks before serving.
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