Add Susan’s fruitcake, sold in our deli, to your LOVE LIST this December. It makes the perfect gift to give this holiday season! Each loaf is $12.99.
“There has always been a stigma around fruitcake; either you like or you don’t,” said Susan McGaughey, Valley Natural Foods’ General Manager.
One of the most severe cases of disliking fruitcake that McGaughey can remember is when one of her pastors lambasted it from the pulpit several years ago! So in defense of fruitcake, she decided to present him with her homemade version as a gift, and guess what — he liked it!
People have enjoyed McGaughey’s fruitcake so much over the years that they have prodded her to go into business but she shies away from that by saying “it takes some of the joy out of it.” For McGaughey, it is all about having a giving, sharing spirit as that is what builds a supportive, connected, educated community. It was the sharing spirit of one of the co-op’s original owners, Hazel Hendrickson, which inspired McGaughey to overcome her own stigma about fruitcake.
See, like most people, what bothered McGaughey was that most fruitcake recipes required candied, artificially- flavored and colored fruit. Yet it wasn’t until Hendrickson, who taught classes and did active demos at Valley Natural Foods for over 25 years, served her version of fruitcake at the co-op, did she ever consider using dried fruit.
“I’ve learned so much from our owners and customers over the years, just by talking to them and from them sharing information with me,” said McGaughey. “I never considered using dried fruit in my fruitcake until I tried Hazel Hendrickson’s version, which really represents the beginning of this learning process as she was so supportive of the co-op. She would come in and share how to bake bread with recipes that she made for her own fourteen children.”
Through this inspiration, McGaughey was excited to experiment and incorporate naturally-sweetened dried fruit such as dates, apricots, cranberries, figs, papaya and pineapple into her recipe. Through many experiments, she came up with a classic, dense fruitcake recipe using dried fruit and pecans, which differed slightly from Hendrickson’s version, which had a cake-like consistency. The version McGaughey came up with has just enough flour and egg mixture to glue the ingredients together. The fruitcake also has very little sugar, using only the natural sweetener, agave syrup.
However, almost a dozen years later, perhaps one can say that McGaughey did go into business with her fruitcake but not in the traditional sense. She did so in a way that goes along with the sharing, giving community spirit that she built and grew Valley Natural Foods upon. When Valley Natural Foods’ deli department was looking for unique holiday items to make and sell about six years ago, McGaughey shared her own fruitcake recipe, which you can find to this day.
Packaged as Deluxe Fruitcake in the deli, don’t let the stigma of this classic holiday food mystify you. It’s all-natural with no artificial ingredients, containing dried fruit, pecans, eggs, vanilla, agave syrup, and a little vanilla. Instead, let the story of Hazel Hendrickson and the legacy she left behind at our co-op, bring you to try it. We guarantee that similar to McGaughey’s pastor, you will never lambaste fruitcake again.