The Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen
By Student Writer, Lauren Meyer
The C of O fruitcake tradition began in the mid-1930s. Not long before Christmas, friends from the South sent a gift of pecans to the School. The Home Economics teacher at the time, Mrs. Annabelle McMasters, gave the nuts to her students to make fruitcakes. Black walnuts were grown locally and raisins could be obtained inexpensively, so they had all the ingredients for a fruitcake recipe.
One day President Dr. Robert M. Good, attracted by the pleasant aroma, stopped by the class. Once Dr. Good saw the fruitcakes setting out to cool, he asked if he could send the cakes to friends at Christmastime. He promised that if The School received any money, in return he would buy the Department its first electric stove. Sure enough, the money came, and the Department received its first electric stove.
Today the College of the Ozarks Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen is a much larger operation. Approximately 22 student workers begin baking in January and continue through October. A typical morning begins with seven students preparing for the day by measuring ingredients, cutting pecans, and slicing candy for the fruitcakes. By nine o’clock, the cooking begins.
Students receive orders all year long. However during the months of November and December, they receive 30-50 phone and mail orders daily. Last year, in November and December more than 6,700 fruitcakes were shipped, equaling a total weight of more than 20,500 pounds. When an order has been made, the fruitcakes taken from freezers where they have been stored at temperatures between 39-42 degrees. They are carefully hand-packaged, labeled, and shipped directly to you.
“Guests love our fruitcake,” said Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen Supervisor Carolyn Crisp. “They always comment on how moist and flavorful our fruitcakes taste.” Some of the more famous individuals to taste the College’s fruitcakes include General Colin Powell, the late Lady Margaret Thatcher, President George W. Bush, and former First Lady Laura Bush.
With the thousands of visitors that make their way through our doors every year, it’s no wonder why they keep coming back to the perfected homemade fruitcake tradition. This year individuals can treat family and friends to a College of the Ozarks fruitcake and enjoy this Christmas with a sweet tradition.