Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Christmastime in Marysville, OH looks a little different this year. We have had to adapt some of our Christmas traditions to keep our community safe amid a global pandemic. Whether it's masked visits with Santa at the Partners Park Pavilion or limiting the size of our own personal family gatherings, 2020 will be a very different holiday season. Even with all these changes, our beautiful town Christmas tree still stands tall at Main & 6th, our downtown shop windows are still decorated and families have even decorated their homes earlier, bigger and brighter than last year to spread joy throughout the community. What are some of your family's Union County Christmas traditions, new or old? Share in the comments!
As we celebrate the end of Union County's bicentennial year, we will be offering our final historical Union County recipe of 2020 at our Christmas Market December 11, 12 & 13. (Remember, the Union County Bicentennial Passport program has officially been extended into 2021, so our historical recipes will be back next year.)
Fruit cakes have a rich history dating all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe (and maybe even earlier), when preserved fruits became widely available. Different countries around the world have developed their own takes on these basic cakes filled with a variety of dried fruits: Stollen in Germany, Panettone in Italy and boozy Black Cake in the Caribbean to name a few. It's little wonder as a nation of immigrants that American women have been making fruit cakes for centuries. The use of dried fruits makes it a perfect winter treat when fresh ingredients would have been difficult to come by. At some point in the 20th century though, fruit cake fell from grace; more often than not, we now think of it as "that doorstop our great aunt insists on making for us every year" rather than as a yummy and decadent holiday treat.
The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book (1876), published as a fundraiser by the women of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, OH, included over a dozen fruit cake recipes. We chose the fruit cake recipe from Mrs. Josie Shearer, wife of John H. Shearer, an early editor of The Marysville Journal-Tribune, credited with really establishing and growing the local newspaper that still serves the community today.
The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book was published during the time of the Temperance Movement, so the fruit cake recipes don't "officially" include liquor. (An introduction to fruit cakes in the book does include instructions for adding liquor to the recipes if the baker should choose to do so.) Given that it is 2020 and we could all use a special treat, I did choose to do so. Rather than the more traditional wine, rum, scotch or whiskey, I chose to use a locally brewed libation with a holiday flavor that plays nicely with the candied citron - Ginger Zing Hard Cider from Rhetoric Brewing Co. in Richwood, OH. I soaked the dried fruits in the cider overnight before baking. Then, I wrapped the cakes in cider-soaked cheesecloth.
When you go to see Marysville's big community Christmas tree at Partners Park this year, make sure to stop by the Tribune Clock and read the plaque: The Marysville Journal-Tribune was once printed RIGHT THERE, where the pavilion stands today. Unfortunately, the newspaper operations have long since moved over to Main & 4th, and the old building is long gone. However, the beautiful Shearer house still stands on 5th Street and is currently being restored by Shearer descendants Bill and Solveig Shearer, who have been an exceptional resource for our historical recipe project and other Union County Historical Society projects, including the ongoing restoration of the Turner automobile. All sales of Mini Shearer Fruit Cakes will benefit projects like this at the Union County Historical Society.
Mini Shearer Fruit Cakes will be for sale at our Candlelit Christmas Market December 11, 12 and 13, 6-9pm at our farm market shed located at 22102 State Route 739 in Raymond. Preorders can be placed on our website.