Fruit, dried and candied

Fruit, dried and candied

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery
Serves
3-4

Dried fruit

The preservation of fruits by drying gives us a sweet, nourishing food available all year round. Dried fruits have a high concentration of sugar for a quick boost of energy, and contain valuable minerals and vitamin A. Many kinds of fruit are dried, from larger ones such as peaches, pears, apples, bananas and apricots, to dates and all the grape family: dessert muscatels, raisins, sultanas (golden raisins) and currants, or a mixture of these, with peel and cherries ready to use in baking.

When buying dried fruits, choose clean, wellwashed fruit which has no musty smell, and store, tightly covered, in a cool, dry, airy place. Buy only as much as you use within 6–8 weeks.

Dried fruits make marvellous snacks on their own, so are ideal to carry outdoors or for busy mothers when children arrive home from school feeling hungry. Add dried fruits to cakes, puddings, breads, buns, biscuits and pastries. They are especially good with rice in pilafs and in rice-based stuffings flavoured with spices, herbs and nuts for meats, poultry or vegetables.

To reconstitute dried fruit: The very best quality dried fruits are graded as ‘dessert’. Such fruits as prunes, dates, apricots, figs, peaches and pears can be purchased in this grade and reconstituted without cooking, by soaking in water (or cold tea for prunes) for 3 hours. They can also be stewed without prior soaking.

Dessert peaches and pears are delicious eaten raw; they have a delicate taste and are best cooked only lightly.

To plump raisins, sultanas (golden raisins) or currants, cover with boiling water or tea; leave for 10 minutes then drain. They can also be plumped by washing briefly and then heating, closely covered, in a preheated moderate oven until they puff up.

To stew dried fruit: Place the fruit in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Simmer, covered, until the fruit is soft and plump. The length of time this takes depends on the type and size of fruit.

To retain whole fruit, add sugar to water before cooking. Most fruit will take ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup fruit, but this depends on your taste and which fruit you are cooking: some are more tart than others. Flavour apricots with a piece of cinnamon stick, pears with a little ground or fresh ginger, and prunes with a clove. Serve with thick whipped cream or custard.

If fruit is very hard and dry, soak overnight in cold water to cover before cooking it in the same water.

When stewing to a purée, sweeten fruit with sugar after cooking.

Candied fruit

Glacé (candied) fruit: The word refers to the glossy coating found on candied fruits such as cherries, apricots, peaches, pineapple rings and whole baby figs, oranges or mandarins.

Glacé fruits are eaten as a sweetmeat – lovely with after-dinner coffee – and are also used as an ingredient in sweet dishes or as a decoration. One of the prettiest ways to use the fruits is in the traditional Bishop’s Cake (p. 60). When the cake is cut the slices look like stained-glass windows.

Crystallised fruit: Candied fruit with a coating of granulated sugar. Candied peel and angelica may not have the addition of a sugar coating; both are used to decorate cakes, puddings, custards, breads and biscuits, while mixed candied peel is used in fruit cakes, loaves, breads, puddings and sweet cheese desserts.

Grilled Stuffed Figs: Soak dried figs in sherry or port for 36 hours. Split and fill with nuts or cream cheese, or a combination of the two, or with cheddar cheese. Wrap with partially cooked bacon strips and secure with a wooden toothpick. Grill (broil) until bacon is crisp and figs are heated through.

Savoury Stuffed Dates: Fill dates with whole or chopped nuts, cream cheese and peanut butter, or a stuffing made by combining cream cheese with a little Mayonnaise, finely chopped celery and onion, and pepper and salt to taste.

Prune Snow: To 225 g sieved cooked prunes add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, pinch cinnamon. Fold in 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff, with 1–2 tablespoons sugar. Spoon into serving dishes; top with cream.

Macerated Prunes, Apricots and Figs: Macerate dried fruit in large sealed jars. Prunes can be macerated in sherry or red wine, apricots in sherry or brandy, figs in brandy. Allow to macerate for at least 1 week before using and use the liquid left in the jars for making another batch. Serve prunes on their own or with a sprinkling of chopped nuts as a dessert, or as an accompaniment to curry. Figs are delicious served with coffee after dinner.

See also Fruit Cake, Dundee Cake, Eccles Cakes,

Christmas Cake, etc.

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