Naysayers say ‘aye’ to this traditional holiday treat redux
By Patricia Beech
SEAMAN — Johnny Carson once famously said there’s only one fruitcake in the whole world, and everyone just keeps passing it around.
Carson’s witty aphorism, notwithstanding, fruitcake’s unsavory reputation as a dense, dry, crumbly, pungent presentation is only one side of the story.
Fruitcake is a traditional little treasure that’s been around since the Romans; it managed to survive the Dark Ages and has been repeatedly transformed as the quality of ingredients improved over a millennia. This holiday treat has kept in step with time as centuries of devoted bakers modified and altered its contents in search of the perfect fruitcake.
Dan Miller, owner of Keim’s Family Market in Seaman, is a believer in the culinary tradition of experimentation. Following the principle that “good fruitcakes don’t just happen, they’re created,” Miller and his staff set to work developing the perfect fruitcake recipe.
Their efforts culminated in a festive, piquant, handmade fruitcake, blanketed by a layer of gleaming, precisely placed pecans, “deeply flavorful, dense, and moist,” as Miller describes it.
“To be honest,” he admitted, “I’ve never cared for fruitcake. It’s so dry, but I do like this fruitcake. It surprises everyone. Most people who don’t like fruitcake, like our fruitcake — once they’re willing to try it.”
He said, “We put out samples and a lot of customers turn up their noses and say, ‘I don’t like fruitcake.’ Then, someone will insist they try it, and when they do, they like it.”
Dark, rich, glistening with golden raisins, nuts and fruits, every cake is handmade using the finest, freshest ingredients to produce a moist, gluten- and alcohol-free cake that will keep up to one year if refrigerated. It is made, packaged, sold and mailed from the place where it was created — the kitchen at Keim’s.
Miller and his employees begin their fruitcake baking season in early October. They’ll bake until after Thanksgiving, and will have fruitcake enough to last until the holidays end.
The Keim market is typically the first stop for visitors to the Adams County Amish community. It is a simple, yet compelling store, reminiscent of the small general stores that once thrived in rural American villages.
Shoppers are met in the parking lot by the warm aromas of freshly baked bread and sweet cinnamon rolls, falling like blessings on visitors, drawing them inside.
The market’s schematic leads one through a varied selection of unique and practical goods, while the aroma rising from the open-air kitchen lures shoppers into the bakery where the season’s fruitcakes are prepared. Shoppers may try a sample while watching the bakers expertly top off the handmade cakes with fruits and nuts.
The rich, remarkably mature flavor and chewy sweetness of Keim’s fruitcake makes it the perfect addition to the merry indulgences of the holiday table, and, contrary to Carson’s ubiquitous euphemism, it won’t be the gift you’d rather keep passing forward.
Keim’s ships its fruitcake across America, from East Coast to West and from Puerto Rico to Alaska.
The Keim Family Market is located at 2621 Burnt Cabin Road alongside state Route 32, in Liberty Township. The market is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday. For more information or to request a catalog, call 937-386-9995.
Pat writes for The People’s Defender in Adams County where she lives with her husband, Mike, their dog Millie, and two cats, Thomas and Sylvester.