This story was first published as “Community Cookbook: Fruitcake Recipe, by Sue Jones from Jackson” in the December 2023 issue of The Best Years.
By Jasmine Jones
Sue Jones spent her childhood on a farm located off of Highway 72 in the Fruitland/Jackson area. Those years on the farm were full of wholesome adventures: Jones rode horses, gathered persimmons from the fruit tree next to the driveway and heated up water for baths by setting a metal tub out in the summer sun.
In the winters, Jones says her family took the bathtub inside, and her mother heated water on the stove; they were the “good ole days,” but Jones wouldn’t want to go back. She appreciates the convenience of modern amenities.
“[On the farm], we had a big cistern and had water brought in by truck. Once a year, it’d be cleaned out. That was just another time and place,” Jones says.
When she was 9 years old, Jones’s family sold the farm and moved into a new house they built; they moved again when she was in the seventh grade, and her father opened up a restaurant and filling station called Johnson’s Service Station along the highway.
At the filling station, her father and brother changed oil and greased cars, while she helped her mother cook and serve food in the restaurant. On Fridays, her father kept the filling station and restaurant open all night to accommodate travelers and trucks coming down from St. Louis.
Jones says cars that stopped by on Friday nights would pull up, and people would start emerging from the cars, one after the other. There would be so many people in one car, Jones says she would think “they’d never stop coming.”
Jones worked those nights and Saturday mornings with her mother, helping cook and serve breakfast while her father was asleep after working all night.
“I was more interested in running around town than I was working,” Jones says.
Jones went to the movies, park and “all kinds of places” with her high school friends, whom she is still close with today. The group of 10 women refer to themselves as the “coffee girls;” she says most people know who they are when they hear that name.
After she graduated from Jackson High School in 1959, Jones married Dean Jones, who was working for her father at the filling station when they met. They have one son together, and now they also have one grandson and two great-granddaughters.
Jones loves traveling and has gone all across the country and world with her friend Mary Klaproth. The pair has been traveling together for more than 50 years. One of the most memorable places Jones says they have visited is Cairo. In Egypt, they stayed in a hotel across the street from the pyramids of Giza, went on a cruise down the Nile River, saw Mount Sinai and visited a shop with ornate, hand-woven rugs.
Jones is active in her community; she goes bowling with a group on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and she has been part of the local Town & Country Extension Club for decades. She joined New McKendree United Methodist Church in 1981 and started singing in the church’s choir before becoming a member.
She used to work at New McKendree United Methodist Church as a financial secretary, secretary to the pastors and receptionist. Jones says she “wore a lot of hats” at her church job before retiring in 2014.
“[Singing] relaxes me, ‘cause [when] I worked at the church and was at the computer, my back would hurt up in my shoulders, and we’d go rehearse [for church choir], and it was gone. So, it was a stress reliever,” Jones says.
Fruitcake often gets a bad rap in popular culture, but Jones enjoys the traditional holiday dessert. She has been making it for more than a decade and says she likes the combination of fruit and nuts together in the dessert. Jones says even her husband likes the fruitcake she makes, and this is a big accomplishment, since she says Dean is a picky eater.
“I guess it’s one of those things, you either like it, or you hate it,” Jones says. “People have different tastes.”
Recipe from “Favorite Recipes from Country Kitchens: Desserts” cookbook, written as “Mamma’s White Fruitcake,” with adjustments by Sue Jones
1⁄2 pound butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs, well-beaten
2 cups pecans (In original recipe: 4 cups pecans)
1 package fruitcake mix (In original recipe: 3⁄4 pound glazed cherries, 1 pound candied pineapple)
13⁄4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons lemon extract
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, creaming until fluffy. Add eggs. Blend into a creamed mixture. Chop nuts and fruit (if not using a fruitcake mix). Mix fruit with part of flour, coating each piece. Sift remaining flour and baking powder together; fold into egg and butter mixture. Add extracts, and mix well. Fold into fruit and nuts. Pour batter into a greased and lightly-floured tube pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours. Cool in a pan or serve on a cake rack. Keep well-wrapped. Yields about 20 servings.