Posted by: Erica Retrochef | May 2, 2016

Hot Fruit Casserole

Strom Thurmond is a legend in South Carolina politics. What kind of legend is a matter of debate though. A staunch opponent of integration and miscegenation, who fathered a child with his family’s teenage African-American housekeeper; the longest-serving Republican Senator, after starting in Congress as a Democrat; a man with a creepily oversize statue on the statehouse grounds. But whatever else he was, he was a consummate politician.

During the 1970s, Thurmond put out a family recipe booklet as part of his campaign. His second wife, Nancy, compiled a number of recipes and added the name of various South Carolina towns.

Always conscious of nutrition, Mrs. Thurmond recently compiled a cookbook of favorite family recipes and photographs which she hands out on the campaign trail for her husband who is seeking re-election. According to the 32 year old former beauty queen, the recipes come from family members and friends, and all utilize South Carolina products. Each recipe is named for a South Carolina town which were campaign stops of the Thurmond entourage. — “Thurmond Family Recipes“, The Sumter Daily Item, September 7, 1978.

I don’t think the names of the towns attached to the recipes actually meant anything. They were just there to point out that Strom Thurmond knew his way around the entire state—and to spell out an acrostic.


Hot fruit casserole — essentially, fruit cocktail baked with fat, sugar, and spices — is apparently a relatively common dish in the South. Travelers Rest Hot Fruit Casserole is just a hot fruit casserole named after Travelers Rest, a very small town that would be unknown except it’s on the way into the North Carolina mountains… and was included in a recipe in Nancy Thurmond’s collection. Other than the name, there are no interesting variations in this version (While researching this dish, I saw versions with macaroons, almonds, or pecans included to add texture and variety).


Travelers Rest Hot Fruit Casserole

6 pears, halved
6 peaches, halved
1 C. pineapple chunks
12 maraschino cherries
1/2 C. oleo
1/2 C. brown sugar
3 tsp. curry powder (or less)

Peel fruit. Melt oleo. Add brown sugar and curry powder. Arrange half of fruit in casserole. Pour half oleo mixture over fruit. Repeat. Bake at 350°F for one hour.


This has the classic vintage recipe “open lots of cans” feel, but a spicy new kick. We didn’t feel like using fresh fruit. It’s spring, and tree fruit isn’t in season. The pears you get from the store in April are either hard or mealy.


Wow, three teaspoons of curry powder? SO SPICY… (not)


We did have a bit of trouble picking out the right casserole dish for this. Too small… too big… finally we just settled on something that was slightly too small but managed to pretty much hold everything. We also doubled the cherry allotment, so we could fit one cherry in each fruit half.


The sauce was pretty grainy when we had to pour it on. The curry and brown sugar were never going to dissolve in just melted vegetable fat.


After baking for an hour, the peaches and pears had released quite a lot of juice. No worries about inadequate sauce — there was at least a cup of liquid released by all that fruit!



Hot fruit casserole has a great balance of sweet and spicy. All the brown sugar may not be necessary (depending on your personal preference), but don’t bother cutting down on the spice. You might even add some ginger as well. It makes canned fruit into a whole new experience.

I can only imagine that nuts or macaroons would make it even more awesome.

Selections from the Strom Thurmond 1978 campaign recipe booklet were originally posted on Reddit by Leecannon_.


  1. For me, all this is missing is a crust. Or some granola. This wanted to be a crumble, methinks… although curry powder would’ve been the last thing I added! Huh. Now I’m intrigued.

  2. My family’s version of this also includes prunes, but no cherries, and uses pineapple rings instead of chunks.

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