My mother didn’t much follow recipes – I can’t ever recall her taking out a cookbook and going step by step. Whenever I would ever ask her how she made something, she would say ”Its a little of this and a handful of that” and then she would laugh and invite me into the kitchen to watch just how it was done. This is how I learned to cook.
One of my favorite things she made was a dessert mother called “strudel.” This was nothing like the typical apple or cherry kind you might buy at a bakery. In fact, I have never known anyone else to make anything even remotely close to my mother’s “strudel.” When she mixed up the filling, we loved turning the handle on the old-fashioned meat grinder she used to prepare the sticky mixture. As much as we loved the strudel, we would turn up our noses as she stuffed the strange ingredients into the hopper. Some of these ingredients were simply horrifying to us – nobody would eat that, we would insist! But all the while we knew that the end result was going to be this delicious, coveted, almost candy-like sweet. I say coveted because once it was made, mom would hide the tins filled with our beloved strudel, doling it out bit by bit. The strudel kept “forever,” because of the use of the whisky which was blotted on a paper towel and placed in the tins to keep the dessert moist.
When I grew up I reconstructed my mother’s strudel and updated the technique for mixing the filling using a food processor. If you have one of those old fashioned hand crank meat grinders you could use that. Mom will smile down on you!
—Fabulous Food Fanatic
about 2-3 pounds
For the filling
pitted prunes (small size if available)
each: Glaceed (also called “glazed” or “fruitcake”) fruits: green cherries, red cherries, orange peel, lemon peel, pineapple
good plum jam
good apricot jam
small bag of baker's flake coconut – use as much or as little (none) as you like
toasted pecans, chopped finely
For the strudel assembly
package Filo Leaves
stick salted butter
In This Recipe
Grind all of the fruits into a large mixing bowl through the medium die of the meat grinder or mince well in a food processor with the chopping blade. If you have one, the grinder attachment on a KitchenAid mixer would, of course work well, too.
Add in the well chopped pecans and the coconut, together with all of the plum jam and half of the apricot jam.
Smush the ingredients up well with your hands (food service gloves are helpful) to combine everything thoroughly. If the mixture is at all crumbly and does not stick together well, you will want to add more of the apricot jam. It depends on how much coconut you put in and also on how moist your apricots and prunes were to begin with. You don’t want the mixture to be too moist – about the consistency of meatloaf is perfect. You will be surprised when you taste this filling to find that the glaceed fruits have completely melded in with the other flavors and that the filling is very fruity, sweet, and tart with just a very slight hint of bitterness from the citrus peel.
TO COMPOSE THE STRUDEL: Lay out a full sheet of filo and brush with a little butter. With the short side of the filo at the bottom, randomly and unevenly sprinkle bits (about a teaspoon or so each) of filling all over the filo sheet up to about 2-3 inches from the top. Starting at the bottom, roll the filling into the filo. The idea is that when you have completely rolled up a sheet with filling, there will be places where the filo is in between the filling from the “level” above. At first, in some places there is filling and some places there is just empty dough. By the time you have rolled the whole sheet, you should have a solidly filled roll that is about 1-2 inches in diameter. Wrap the unfilled filo at the top around the roll and secure with it with a brush of butter. Brush the roll with more butter on the outside and set it aside on a baking sheet until you have rolled up all of the filling this way.
Bake the rolls in a 350 degree oven until the filo is golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and run a spatula under the strudel to loosen it from the sheet. Allow the strudel to cool thoroughly and then cut it in 1” pieces. Store in a parchment lined tin or plastic container in layers , with parchment between each layer. Dust each layer lightly with powdered sugar.
Blot a folded up white paper towel with whiskey and get it nice and damp, but not at all dripping. Place this in your tin or plastic container to help keep the strudel fresh and soft (although it is really good even when it gets a little hard).
When well sealed in a tin, strudel will keep for at least 6 months.