Candying fruit is a time-honoured tradition beloved the world over. Whether you begin your candied fruit creations with fruitcake, sugarplums or sinful chocolate-dipped orangettes, you’re sure to fall in love with the art of making these special treats.
How does fruit become candy?
Candied fruit is made by soaking fresh fruit pieces in a sugar syrup, then heating the mixture until all the fruit's original water content is replaced with sugar.
When made into candied fruit, sliced fruits, such as orange and lemon wedges, strawberries, melons, kiwi, grapefruit and pineapple, retain their vibrant colour. As the sliced fruits simmer in the sugary syrup, the sweetness seeps into the fruit, making it plump and juicy. The sugar acts as a preserving agent, keeping the individual fruity flavours of each candied slice intact.
Where is candied fruit used?
Candied fruit has been around for centuries. When people in ancient Egypt, Rome and China discovered they could preserve fresh fruit in a sweet syrup to last them through the winter, candied oranges, citrons and cherries became staples in the pantries of home preservers. When sugar became widely available in Europe, bakers and confectioners polished the process of candying fruit into an art form, making candied fruit (or glacé fruit or crystallized fruit, as its also known) popular delicacies, particularly in France, Portugal and Spain.
Many people get their first taste of candied fruit in holiday favourites such as fruitcake, plum pudding or lebkuchen cookies. Chopped pieces of candied oranges, citrons, cherries, pineapples, peaches, apricots and pears are common ingredients in these wintertime treats, with crystallized ginger and citrus peel added to the mix.
Page 1 of 3 – Find out how to transform fruit into a delicious candy treat on page 2.
Candied fruit can also be enjoyed chopped and sprinkled into any cake batter, baked on top of cookies or sprinkled over homemade fudge or chocolate bark. Whole slices also make a beautiful, show-stopping garnish for tarts, pies, pastries and other decadent desserts.
"I didn’t grow up in a home that made the traditional fruitcake during the holidays," says Amanda Barnier, a food specialist in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen. "But I do tend to use a lot of candied ginger at home – in streusel for pumpkin pie and savoury dishes, or tossed with blanched green beans."
"I love to garnish baked goods with candied fruit or zest if the fruit is used in the dish," Barnier adds. "What better way to top a key lime pie than with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of candied lime? Or candied orange peel on top of an orange-cream-cheese-frosted carrot cake? Yum!"
For a unique gift your loved ones are sure to remember, why not give a ribbon-wrapped jar of homemade candied orange slices? Candied oranges can be enjoyed well past the holidays (though they'll likely go fast), and their rich orange syrup can be used to sweeten baked goods, tea or just about anything that needs a touch of sugar.
How to make candied fruit
Traditionally, candied fruit could take up to an entire month to make, but thanks to candy enthusiasts, a shortened method was created. The method described in Field Guide to Candy (Quirk Books, 2009) is an easy process.
• Cut your chosen fruit into 1/4-inch (5 mm) slices.
• For every 1/2 cup of sugar, combine with 1-1/2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
• Add your sliced fruit into the boiling sugar syrup, keeping the fruit covered by syrup. Cook at medium-low heat, turning the slices of fruit occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes or until the fruit becomes translucent, but still intact.
• Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sliced fruit onto a wire rack. Let cool and dry overnight.
• Roll sliced fruit in a layer of sugar to complete your candied treat. Store in an airtight container, between sheets of waxed paper, in the fridge or a cool, dry place for up to six months.
Page 2 of 3 – Looking to incorporate candied fruit into your desserts? Discover a few delicious recipes on page 3.
How to make candied citrus peel
Candied citrus peel adds a burst of sweet tartness to cakes, spiced breads and other treasured desserts. Oranges and lemons are commonly made into candied peel, but other citrus fruits, such as tangerines, limes, grapefruits or prized citrons, can also be used for these holiday confections.
Making citrus confit (or preserved citrus) is simple. Follow the steps from Field Guide to Candy to make candied peel:
• Cut your chosen citrus fruit into quarters. Cut off the peel, but leave a thin layer of the pith attached. Cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) strips.
• Blanch the peels three times. Cover your citrus peels with fresh water each time, and bring to a boil for one minute.
• Using the same sugar to water ratio as above(1:3), simmer your blanched peels over low heat for 45 to 60 minutes, or until translucent.
• Remove citrus peels from syrup, transfer to wire rack to cool, then coat in sugar. To make orangettes, dip half of a candied orange peel into melted chocolate.
Tips for making candied fruit
Because much of the candying process involves simmering the fruit in a delicate syrup, Barnier shares a few of the Test Kitchen's tips on cooking with sugar.
"Simmer the sugar and peel mixture over low heat, and keep your eyes on it," Barnier says. "Sugar can easily boil over and cause serious burns. Use a pot that can hold three times the amount of liquid to help prevent the syrup from boiling over."
If you have any leftover sugar syrup, "it can then be used to moisten cakes and sweeten drinks such as iced tea, cocktails and sparkling water,” Barnier adds. “(Sugar syrup) should keep well in the refrigerator for a few weeks."
When drying candied fruit, "set a tray lined (with parchment or wax paper) beneath your wire rack to catch any drippings," says Barnier. "And leave it in an open space where there is good air circulation."
Once you've got your batch of candied fruit ready, don't forget to try these Canadian Living recipes that call for candied fruit.
Christmas Fruit Bread
Gluten-Free Fruit and Almond Cake With Candied Tangerines
Mini Plum Puddings
Page 3 of 3