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Candied Fruit

30 November 2021
For a long time, candying fruit was only a means of preserving them. The use of cane sugar has changed that: their shine, the light reflecting off them has transformed them into jewels of gastronomy.

Cooking fruit in honey in order to preserve them is an ancient practice, known by the Romans: Apicius even mentions whole candied quinces. But, in general, with this slightly rough technique, the fruits fall apart and, although jam can be delicious, it will not render the original appearance of the fruit. It is without a doubt the desire to have “real” fruit off season which has led to the better control of their preparation. In France, candied fruit appeared in Provence with the arrival of the Popes in Avignon during the second half of the 14th century and became fashionable throughout Europe with the generalization of the use of cane sugar. English home economic books dating from the end of the 16th century, such as Olivier de Serres’ théâtre d’agriculture published in 1600, give the details of their preparation.

The traditional way is long and tricky, therefore, few continue to prepare them in this fashion: we are a far cry from the last minute production method. If a virtue could characterize the confectionery art, it would be patience… The principle being to replace the water contained in the fruit by syrup. In order to do that, fruits must be carefully selected: it’s very important, they must be beautiful; pricked and blanched, allowing the syrup to better penetrate, they are cooked a first time in a light syrup. Brought to a boil and immediately stopped and set aside for 24 hours in a terrine. The next day, the contents of the terrine, along with a more concentrated syrup are transferred to a saucepan where they are brought to a boil a second time. And so on, until the syrup’s degree remains stable, augmenting the soaking time between each simmering, because, as it becomes concentrated, the syrup takes more and more time to penetrate to the heart of the fruit.  This can be up to ten times over seven to eight weeks, explains Frédéric Jouvaud, who has added a confectionery activity to his pastry shop in Carpentras: watching the art disappear, he decided to learn the secrets of candying fruit with Mister Bono, a wellknown former confectioner from the city. 

Not all fruits can be candied: one must choose the right varieties, preferring local production, except, of course for exotic fruits. In France, the Provence and Auvergne Regions are known for their candied fruits; each having its specialties: melons, strawberries and citrus fruits in Carpentras, angelica and apricots from Clermont, and of course, here and there, pears, figs and pineapple.

Benedict Beaugé

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