Candied fruit is a real passion for some: an ancient preservation technique that can also be reproduced at home. Here is everything you need to know about candied fruit: where they come from, what the candying consists of, and how to make it at home.
There are those who love them, there are those who hate them: we are talking about candied fruit, the cross, and the delight of panettone lovers, who here are divided into two distinct factions. Candied fruit is the result of candying, a very ancient preservation technique: the word, in fact, derives from the Arabic qandat, which in turn is a transcription of the Sanskrit word khandakah, meaning “sugar”.
But what exactly are candied fruit? And what does the candying process consist of? Is it possible to do this at home? We will therefore answer these and many other questions about candied fruit: this is where the candied fruit comes from. How they are made, and how to make them at home.
What is candying and where does it come from
The candidature is a preservation technique, as already said. From very ancient origins: the main object of Candying is the fruit in which, during this process. It subtracts one part water and sugar is added (increasing it up to 70% ). Traditionally, beet sugar is used for this process, but other types of sugar are also allowed, as well as honey, with which the finest candies are produced. Furthermore, in Italy there are still very high-quality preparations in which the fruit is candied and preserved in cooked must: one of these is, saba or sapa, of Emilia-Romagna.
We were saying, a method whose origins are lost almost over time: there are traces of conservation through sugars already in ancient Chinese culture and in the area of Mesopotamia. Even the Romans used this technique to preserve not only fruit and vegetables but also fish. Naturally, we owe the modern candying methods to the Arabs who, especially at weddings, used to preserve citrus fruits, various types of fruit, and candied rose petals in syrup. With us, the candying came first with the Arab domination in Sicily. And then with the Venetian and Genoese merchants.
How candying is done
When candying, the temperature at which it is done is very important: in most cases. In fact, it is done at a high temperature, which causes the fruit not only to lose its nutritional properties but often also part of its aromas. It goes without saying that the best method for candying while preserving all the natural aromas of fruit and even sublimating them, is cold candying, usually the prerogative of the pastry chef. To candy the fruit, it must be left in the syrup, kept at a constant temperature of 65 ° C.
The methods for candying fruit change depending on whether it is an industrial or home environment: in the first case, in fact, candying autoclaves are used, hermetically sealed containers in which fruit and syrup are kept at low pressure. The boiling point, in this case, is therefore lowered to 55-60 ° C.
In the artisan version, or that of the pastry shops, however. The method is different: the fruit is put in a candying tank and covered with syrup; then, by osmosis, an exchange of the cellular liquid with the sugar solution takes place. After a certain period of time, which can vary from 24 hours to 7 days. The diluted syrup is separated from the fruit and heated: the aim is to make it lose excess water. In some cases, more sugar is added at this stage.
Once the syrup has reduced to the right point (and this is where the pastry chef’s experience comes into play), it is poured over the fruit again: an operation that is technically called giulebbatura, a word that comes from the Arabic giulab. and it means “rose water”. This operation is sometimes also repeated to reach the right concentration of sugar in the candied fruit: after this, they can be consumed immediately, or preserved in the candying liquid. In some cases, especially in the case of large whole fruits, cuts or holes are made in the pulp, to make the syrup penetrate better, or they are just blanched.
Sometimes, the procedure does not end here: to make Parisian candied fruit. In fact, the already candied fruit is “frozen”, or covered with another layer of sugar.
How to make candied fruit at home
In Italy, candied fruit soon became a fundamental ingredient of some of the most important desserts of our tradition: first of all the panettone, but also the Sicilian cassata and other specialties. But is it possible to reproduce this process at home? With a little dexterity and a good dose of patience, it is possible to candy fruit at home. But let’s start with the fruit that is easier to handle:
Whole and pieces of fruit. Small whole fruits such as cherries, chestnuts (marron glace), apricots, plums, small citrus fruits such as mandarins, medlars, peaches, papayas. And so on can be candied; as for large citrus fruits. They can be seasoned by cutting them into slices.
Fruit pulp. Even the pulp alone can be candied, as for example is done with pumpkin: the so-called “Zucca”. In fact, is an important ingredient in many confectionery recipes; the same thing can be done with watermelons and melons.
Citrus peels. There are many fruit peels that can be candied, starting from those of oranges, very famous in Sicilian pastry, up to cedar peels, passing through lemon and pomelo.
Roots and stems. Roots such as ginger can be candied but also plant stems. Such as that of angelica (a plant similar to that of fennel);
Flowers. Flower petals can be candied for decorative purposes such as roses, violets, or mimosas.
Once you have chosen the fruit, as we said, you have two methods at your disposal: cold candying, a more laborious and lengthy technique. But which protects the flavor and aroma of the fruit better; hot candying, faster but less delicate. All you need for both preparations is fruit, sugar, and water.
How to Cold Candle Fruit at Home
For this procedure you will have to use half sugar compared to the weight of the fruit and the same amount in water : for example for 500 grams of fruit you will need 500 ml of water and 250 grams of sugar. Furthermore, you will have to consider, for the first 8 days, 60 grams of sugar per day to be added to the syrup, while for the following days 80 grams.
Wash the fruit, peel it and if it is large, cut it into pieces: if you use fruit with hard skin, make incisions or holes with a fork; in this case, if it is a bitter fruit, you have to keep it for 2-3 days in cold water, so as to eliminate part of the bitterness. After that, you can decide whether to leave it whole (only for small fruits), cut it into pieces or slices: consider that the smaller the pieces, the less time it will take to candying them. Put the pieces of fruit in a pot, sprinkle it with 500 g of granulated sugar and let it rest for 24 hours; Once this is done, remove each piece from the liquid that has been created and place them in a large bowl.
Once the fruit has been removed, you will have to use the same liquid in which you made it rest to create a syrup; put it in a saucepan, add 60 g of sugar, 250 ml of water (one cup) and bring to a boil over low heat: it will have to boil for 5 minutes. Once this is done, let the syrup cool (it’s fine too warm, but not too much). Then pour it over the fruit and let it rest for 24 hours.
Repeat this operation every day for 10 days: each time drains the fruit. Renew the syrup with the sugar and pour it into the bowl, so as to cover all the fruit. You will not have to do anything special for the fruit, you can leave it in the pot. If possible covered with a cotton cloth: the cooling process must take place naturally, at room temperature.
On the last day, if you see that the syrup is too thick, heat the bowl in a bain-marie until it melts; finally put each piece of fruit on a wire rack, so as to drain the excess sugar for 1-2 days. Now you can taste, or use in some desserts, your cold candied fruit. Place each piece of fruit on a wire rack to drain for a couple of days. And here it is, the cold candied fruit is ready.
Hot candying fruit at home
Start by washing and peeling the fruit: cut the large fruits into pieces and boil them slightly for 1-2 minutes maximum. If you prefer, you can boil the whole fruit (only if small) or leave the peel: in this case, however, you will have to prick it. If you are preparing peels, boil them 2-3 times to eliminate all the bitterness of the white part.
Put the fruit in a pan with 1/4 l of water and add 150 g of sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Once ready, the fruit should be a little less colored, tending to transparent. While the liquid will have to evaporate almost completely. This is done, drain the fruit, drain it on a wire rack, separating the pieces well. Once cold, you can use it or enjoy it.