THE BASIC TECHNIQUE:
Candied (crystallized or “glace”) fruit has been around since at least the 14th century. Whole fruit or pieces of fruit can be preserved in this manner. Basically, the method is simply to gently cook the barely ripe fruit in increasingly stronger solutions of heated sugar syrup; as time goes by, the syrup gradually replaces the water content of the fruit. The process can take from several days to several months, depending upon the type and size of fruit. Expect to spend about 6 days preparing whole small fruits, as described below.
A CROCKPOT, if possible – this is the perfect vessel for the project, because the fruit can remain in the same cooking pot (with little danger of scorching) until it is ready to be taken out to drain and to allow the surface of the fruit to dry. A heavy-gauge pot with a lid may be substituted (possibly using a “flame tamer” to regulate stovetop heat, depending on how precisely the heat can be regulated on the cooktop.)
You will also need:
WATER (filtered is best)
LIGHT CORN SYRUP – SUCH AS KARO BRAND (LIGHT) CORN SYRUP
A WIRE RACK FOR DRYING THE FRUIT
FRESH FRUITS: Whole fresh fruits should be no larger than 2 inches across - the little Seckle pears are quite beautiful, as are the little Clementine oranges (Mandarin type, seedless), sweet lemons (Meyer, very small size), as well as small very firm apples and crab apples. Fresh fruit should be just barely ripe – not soft, in order to retain its shape and color.
A SPECIAL NOTE: Candy only one type of fruit at a time – and DO NOT CANDY LIMES! Limes are the one citrus fruit that will turn an unpleasant brown color (and will affect any other fruits mixed with them) as well as lose texture, when candied – due to an enzyme in the rind of the fruit. Any other small citrus fruit will work fine.
DRIED FRUITS: Dried Fruits will require only about one third the time that fresh fruit will take to candy. Use whole dried figs, apricots, or apricot halves, pear halves, peach halves. The large dried Bing or Morello cherries can also be glacéd.
IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING DRIED FRUITS: The preparation of dried fruits needs one additional step before beginning the candying process described below: the fruits must be steamed for about 20 to 30 minutes until nicely plumped - the larger the fruit the longer it will take for the fruit to become plump and ready for candying.
TO PREPARE THE FRUIT:
Fresh, barely ripe, small pears and apples should be washed well and scrubbed with a brush or with dry baking soda to remove all vestiges of any wax coating they may have. Oranges and lemons must be washed thoroughly, as well. [Prepare dried fruit as described in paragraph above.]
Apples and pears may be peeled, if desired - but must be kept in acidulated water (water with lemon juice added – OR a mixture of half water and half lemon-lime soda works just fine). If peeling apples or pears, leave the stem in place and use a very sharp vegetable peeler to peel the fruit, trying not to leave any obvious ridges: you want a fruit that is as smooth as possible. A drop or two of red food coloring, added to the sugar syrup, makes a more attractive fruit - giving a slightly pink tint to the white fruits. It does not take as long to candy peeled fruit, as it does to candy unpeeled fruit.
MAKE A SIMPLE SYRUP TO COVER THE FRUIT:
To determine the amount needed, place the fruit in the crockpot and cover with water until the fruit is completely submerged. Then, remove the fruit and measure the amount of water remaining in the crockpot.
Using warm water, measure twice the amount of water as measured in the above “test” [you will now make a double batch of syrup in order to have extra, because you will need to add more syrup as you go along through the candying process]. Pour the warm water into a bowl, jug, jar or other container suitable for storing the extra in the refrigerator.
To the warm water, add 3 parts sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. [Cook’s Note: The formula for the sugar syrup is 1 part warm water to 1 1/2 parts, sugar – you are doubling this amount.]
TO READY THE FRUIT FOR CANDYING:
Using a very fine pin or needle, pierce the skin of each fruit piece all over, to a depth of 1/4 inch (slightly deeper for citrus fruits) Then, run a skewer straight through the center of the fruit from the blossom end but do not poke the skewer all the way through the fruit. Stop before piercing through the stem end. Remove the skewer and immediately place the fruit gently in the crockpot so that the fruit is not crowded.
Pour over enough prepared simple syrup to cover the fruit. Reserve the remaining syrup in the refrigerator for adding later as needed.
Turn the heat setting on the crockpot to high, and heat the fruit and syrup (uncovered, so you can watch it) until the liquid just begins to bubble on the bottom.
When syrup begins to bubble in the bottom of the crockpot, reduce the crockpot temperature setting to low, cover the pot, and allow the fruit to simmer very slowly in the syrup for 6 hours. Turn off the crockpot, and allow the fruit to cool completely - overnight if possible.
If the liquid level has reduced during the first 6 hours of cooking, so that the fruit is no longer covered, add more simple syrup from your reserved supply (in the refrigerator) to bring the syrup level back to the amount needed to cover the fruit.
Turn the crockpot heat setting to high, and allow to heat until syrup is bubbling, then reduce the heat to low and allow the fruit to simmer gently (covered) on low for 6 hours, as on the previous day. Turn off the crockpot, and allow the mixture to cool completely as before.
DAYS THREE, FOUR AND FIVE:
Repeat this routine for 3 more days: adding syrup if needed each morning, bringing syrup just to a simmer, lowering the heat, and simmering (covered) for 6 hours – then, allowing the fruit to cool completely in the syrup.
When final cooling is completed, gently remove the fruit from the syrup and allow it to drain on a wire rack. Reserve the syrup in the crockpot for re-use!
On the sixth day, after the fruit has drained, return the fruit to the crockpot, and pour over the reserved syrup left over from the previous day, (adding more from refrigerated, reserved syrup, if needed in order for the simple syrup to cover the fruit – PLUS, now add 1 cup of Karo light corn syrup.
Turn the crockpot heat setting to high and heat the mixture until the liquid begins to simmer. This time, allow the fruit to simmer UNCOVERED for 8 hours, checking from time to time - you might have to add a little more of the reserved syrup if the level goes down: the fruit should remain covered with syrup.
Remove the fruit from the syrup while it is still warm and place on wire rack to drain. Reserve the syrup remaining in the crockpot in case additional cooking becomes necessary (see next paragraph).
When the fruit has cooled completely, cut into one fruit to determine that the fruit is candied all the way to the center. If it is not yet fully candied repeat the “Day Six” routine (cooking for 8 hours) one more time. Remove the fruit and drain until completely cooled on a wire rack once more. Check another fruit as described above. If necessary, repeat the “Day Six” routine another day or 2 or 3 – as needed.
After the fruit has stopped dripping, and has been determined to be candied throughout, place fruit on it’s rack over a sheet pan in a very, low oven (175 degrees at most) until the surface of the fruit has dried and can be touched without its feeling too sticky.
Leave the candied fruits “as is” for a shiny look, OR roll each piece in granulated sugar for a frosted look.
Store the finished candied fruits in a tightly sealed glass jar for several months.