A whole fruit immersed in a lace of crisp sugar. The fruit is preserved by soaking in syrup for several days until the sugar replaces the moisture in the fruit. The result of candying is a deeply sweet fruit of rich, firm texture, retaining the color and shape of the original. Citrus and stone fruits, pears, figs, cherries, and pineapple are the most popularly known subjects of candying.
Preparation and Preservation.
Candied fruits keep well over time; the preservative qualities of syrup in relation to fruit can be traced both to 12th century Rome and ancient China. The fruit is softened by soaking it in water for a few minutes. It is immediately dipped in syrup. Each day, a small amount of the syrup is drained; granulated sugar is dissolved in the remaining syrup to increase the concentration. The sweeter syrup is poured over the fruit.
The reason that the syrup is drained away gradually, while more sugar is added to the concentration daily, is that early confectioners learned that only this method preserves the taste and tenderness of the original fruit. If a highly concentrated syrup is used from the beginning, the candied fruit result, while still edible, is shrivelled and tough. After five to seven days, the fruit is drained and allowed to dry in gentle heat, preferably the sun. Some preparations call for a final coat of caster sugar which results in 'crystallized fruit'; alternately, a final coat of warm sugar syrup can be used to yield a smooth coating known as glacé in French.
Candied Fruit In Europe.
That the process of preparing candied fruit is long - and that high quality fruit must be used - means that candied fruit is today an expensive luxury. In Britian, the term 'candy' has traditionally denoted candied fruit, and its consumption is associated with the Christmas season. The least expensive, the glacé cherry, is often coupled with candied angelica in decorating desserts, such as the Riz à l'impératrice (very rich rice pudding made with vanilla custard, whipped cream and crystallized fruit). Usually larger fruits are cut into smaller pieces before crystallization. However, magnificent store displays in Genoa and Milan present massive candied grapefruit and pineapple and melon.
The French regions of the Auvergne and Provence (city of Apt) have well-established traditions for delicious candied fruit; in particular, the northeastern city of Strasbourg produces candied mirabelle plums flavored with kirsch and stuffed with fruit paste. The Spanish and Portuguese (particularly the Portuguese town of Elvas) enjoy a tradition of candying fruit. As a result of their colonial occupation, candied fruits may be found throughout Mexico, South America, and the Philippines.
Candying, initially a creative and economical method of home preservation of fruit, has evolved into a distinct confectionary tradition in many parts of the world.