What is Candied Fruit?
Candied fruit, sometimes called glaće fruit, is fruit that has been preserved through a series of steepings in dense sugar syrup. After the fruit has absorbed as much sugar as possible, it is allowed to fully dry and is then packed into dry containers for storage. The high sugar content allows it to keep essentially indefinitely under the right conditions. It has a variety of uses, ranging from eating it straight to including chopped pieces in various desserts.
People have been making candied fruit in Europe since the 14th century, and the tradition in the Middle East is even older. Originally, it was made with a dense honey syrup, because sugar, a New World crop, was not yet available. After the discovery and subsequent colonization of the New World, most was made with sugar, and it became a very costly delicacy, reflecting the commodity's high price. Thanks to more affordable sugar supplies today, this fruit is much less expensive.
To make candied fruit, cooks prepare the fruit that they plan to candy by cutting it up and removing inedible parts, such as pith and pits. Then, it is boiled in a sugar solution and allowed to soak for a day. Next, the fruit is drained, and boiled again, typically in a syrup with an even higher sugar content. This process is repeated several times, usually over the course of a week.
Once all of the boiling and soaking steps are finished, the fruit was traditionally laid out on racks in a warm place to dry. Modern producers usually opt to dry their fruit in ovens to speed the process. Once it's completely dry, it can be packaged for long-term storage. Oranges, apples, pineapples, mangoes, ginger, dates, cherries, and many other fruits can be candied, and it is also possible to find candied nuts like marron glaće.
Traditional candied fruit is sometimes known as crystallized fruit, a reference to the dense coating of sugar crystals that covers it. It is extremely sweet, and can be an acquired taste. Many modern producers stop short of fully candying their fruit, leaving it with a more flexible texture and a slightly less sweet flavor. This variety will not last as long as that made with traditional methods, and it may need to be stored under refrigeration to prevent decay.
You can buy candied fruit at a lot of grocery stores, especially around the holiday season, although sometimes this fruit really is closer to dried fruit than strictly candied; much of it still works well in things like fruit cake recipes, though, depending on what your recipe requires.
Some people confuse candied fruit and dried fruit, and they are greatly different. While a lot of commercially dried fruit is at least lightly coated in sugar, it is possible to dry fruit with little or no sugar. Candied fruit, as the name suggests, requires large amounts of it. Also, candied fruit is not actually dry; with the exception of candied fruit peel, which usually dries out easily, candied fruit can be extremely sticky to the touch. Handling it can also leave your fingers covered in sugar, adding to the mess.
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