The origins of candied fruits are very old. They date back to the Paleolithic, when looking for a new method to preserve food. But nowadays the tradition and the pleasure to preserve fruits in this way date back to the Roman period, when honey was used instead of sugar, still unknown.
An ancient culinary technique used by merchants
Given that sugar is good to preserve fruits and vegetables as salt does, it was used by merchants to obtain the maximum profit out of their stock.
The first written reference to sugar in the West comes from a lieutenant of Alexander the Great, who came from India. He wrote “There is a type of cane from which honey is obtained without bees”. Cane sugar was known as the salt of India and spread throughout the world from Asia from the 7th century. Sugarcane started to be cultivated in Egypt and North of Africa and then it arrived to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century.
The process of candied fruits
Candied fruits are made by a long immersion in a strong solution of heated sugar syrup. The process can take from some days to several months, depending upon the type and size of fruits.
The Italian term “candito” could derive from the Latin term “conficere” meaning “preparing” referring to candied fruits but also to anise and fennel seeds frosted with sugar: these delicacies were served at the end of Romans banquets as a digestive.
Romans used to immerse in honey also flowers, vegetables, fish and, most of all citrus fruits.
A different belief tells that the term “candito” derives from the Arab word “qandat” meaning “sugar”.
In France there is also a process called “confit” that contemplates the cooking in grease of duck or pork meat.
In Italy you can find candied fruits in many cakes like panettone, colomba (it is similar to panettone but typical of Easter festivities), Sicilian cassata or Napolitan pastiera.
Marron glacé, in the end, are just candied chestnuts.
How to use candied fruits
As I told you before, you can use these little delicacies in cakes, however they are delicious on their own as well. Even if candied fruits contain lots of calories, because of the sugar, they are a good snack for sportsmen/women, students and for those who need a break.
Try our Sicilian candied orange skins covered with dark chocolate for a very delicious taste.