Does this Civil War era recipe use fresh currants or dried?

I’m trying to work up another blog post for the library, and I thought I’d cook something out of our bound copies of Godey’s Lady’s Book. There’s a recipe for Christmas Cake that they print every year, so it must be good, right? I’m looking at 1859, but I’ve seen it in several other December issues exactly the same.

To two pounds of flour well sifted unite
Of loaf sugar ounces sixteen;
Two pounds of fresh butter, with eighteen fine eggs,
And four pounds of currants washed clean;
Eight ounces of almonds well blanched and cut small,
The same weight of citron sliced;
Of orange and lemon-peel candied one pound,
And a gill of pale brandy uniced;
A large nutmeg grated; exact half an ounce
Of allspice, but only a quarter
Of mace, coriander, and ginger well ground,
Or pounded to dust in a mortar.
An important addition is cinnamon, which
Is better increased than diminished;
The fourth of an ounce is sufficient. Now this
May be baked four good hours till finished.

Um, I was going to at least half it, maybe quarter it. So my first question is, are those currants dried or fresh?

My other question is, am I accidentally making fruitcake? I don’t care for fruitcake.

My other other question is… four hours? Any suggestions on that one? The rest of these recipes don’t state a time at all so I figured you just throw 'em in at 350 until a knife comes out clean, but this one specifically says four hours. At 200?

I’m just posting to see what the answer is, but it sure looks like fruitcake to me. :slight_smile:

Well, I’m not putting that nasty green stuff in it, I tell you what.

The lucky thing is that I can always bring it in to work and say, “Hey, I made this for the blog!” and people will eat it and act like they like it.

They are certainly dried currants - that is, dried grapes (with little crunchy seeds in them - not everybody likes them).

Fresh currants are grapes.

(Unless they’re black~, white~ or redcurrants, but those are almost never referred to just as ‘currants’ - the exception being ‘currants’ as a general term in gardening literature - i.e. ‘build a fruit cage to protect your raspberries, gooseberries and currants from birds’)

I think of currants as being the little red or black dudes.

I would suggest using small dark raisins in place of the currants.

And the coriander they’re talking about is ground coriander seed.

Also… four hours is not unreasonable for a fruit cake - and that’s a really big cake you’re making there anyway (eighteen eggs). I’d set the oven at maybe 170 centigrade and check after two hours, turning down the heat if it’s burning on the outside and still sticky within.

Also… can you even buy Citron anywhere? (it’s not lemon, in this context)

I don’t know about in the US, but glaced citron is a common Italian food ingredient, and here in Australia can be found at a lot of delis and dried fruit/nut places (larger than a lemon, and greenish). But you could substitute other glaced fruit if you need to.

But it’s moot - since it is a fruitcake recipe, and the OP hates fruitcake!

It sure is. And a spicy fruitcake at that.

Same here. I’ve always thought of currant as referring to either blackcurrant or redcurrant. But it appears they also refer to a type of grape, something I’ve never been aware of.

Interesting. ‘Currant’ as a term to describe dried grapes is pretty well known (I’d say universal, but that’s probably not quite right) here in the UK (as well as sultanas, which are like big, soft, pale raisins) - which I suppose accounts for the non-use here of the term ‘currants’ to describe Ribes spp (in culinary contexts).

In the US, sultanas are called golden raisins.

Kind of. Golden raisins are dried sultana grapes that have been bleached with lye (edited to add: or with Sulphur dioxide and dried at a high temperature). I think we generally take them without the bleaching here - UK sultanas are just dried green grapes.

Zante Currants:slight_smile:


You certainly will be making fruit cake.

The name for this type of current comes from a corruption of the word “Corinth (grape)”.


Woah, I had no idea I’ve been eating raisin scones all this time! I generally don’t like regular raisins in baked goods, since they’re too sweet, but I’d always assumed that dried currants were dried blackcurrants or something related. Ignorance fought!

In the Southern United States, Sultana was a riverboat that sank near Memphis in the Mississippi river just after the Civil War, with a greater loss of life than Titanic.

Coriander is the seed of the infamous (on the SDMB) cilantro.

Citron is available in the next couple months for… people who like fruitcake. :slight_smile: I’m thinking I may make it for the boyfriend’s TV show’s live show in a month, which is going to be a Christmas show and there might be enough people to eat 18 eggs worth. (, if you’re interested.) This week I think I’ll try an extremely scaled down version - maybe, like, six eggs worth.

So if you cut the recipe, is the cooking time the same? I’ve never made a fruitcake, or really any similar baked good.

Most green grapes turn dark when dried unless they’re bleached. Most raisins sold in the U.S. are made from Thompson seedless grapes, which are green when ripe and very dark brown (almost black) when dried. Are sultana grapes different somehow?