Fruitcake is a treasured tradition in my family. Not that yucky dark brown fruitcake but a light fruitcake that’s basically a buttery pound cake recipe with lots of fruit and nuts. Grandma used the recipe handed down from her mother-in-law, my Great Grandma, and she explained to me that you leave out anything that can make the cake turn dark and taste “earthy”. So no molasses, walnuts or dark raisins. Just light colored ingredients and colorful fruit.

When I was about 38 and my grandma in her 80’s I realized somebody had to learn how to make her fruitcake recipe so it never leaves the family. She told me what to buy, and I brought her to my house so we could make them together. That’s the last time she ever made fruitcake I think, and I have faithfully made it every year since, meaning now it is EXPECTED of me; I’m the official fruitcake maker and I better make damn sure everybody gets some.

Now you can imagine my horror when I truly waited til the last minute to buy that disgusting candied fruit you put in fruitcake, and it was gone. GONE. Nobody had any last weekend when I finally decided it was time to make the fruitcakes. I found three 1/4 cup containers of candied cherries, and that’s it. I was standing in my kitchen Sunday morning trying to decide what I could bake for my mother and brother as a consolation prize, when I had this hair-brained idea that I could MAYBE find a recipe to make some candied fruit. I went to the internet and was immediately rewarded with complete instructions.

Now that I’ve done it, making candied fruit is not difficult but it is time-consuming. I spent half a day on Sunday and all day Monday making it, but I promise you it is worth the effort!

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Cut the top and bottom ends off of the orange (or other citrus fruit)

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Cut strips about 1/4″ wide, from top to bottom. Carefully peel them away from the fruit.

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First, put the peeling strips into a pan, cover them with water, and boil for about 20 minutes until they start to become somewhat translucent. The rear pot shown is pomelo, the front pot is lemon. YOUR HOUSE WILL SMELL DELICIOUS!

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Next, put them in a colander and rinse under cold water for a minute or so.

Next step isn’t pictured. Make a simple syrup, one cup of water per one cup of sugar. (I used half sugar and half Truvia to cut down on the sugar. Adjust how many cups of simple syrup you need to the amount of fruit you’re cooking. I cooked each fruit separately to keep distinct flavors in each fruit. Cook this mixture for 30-40 minutes, allowing the fruit peeling to absorb all that sugar.

candied-orangescandied-fruit-7Remove the syrup-laden peeling from the pan with a slotted spoon. (You want to keep this yummy syrup for use in cookies, cake, as a topping for ice cream or something – it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Put the pieces onto a drying rack with a paper towel below to catch the sugary drippings.

You can let these sit for an hour or two and roll them in sugar to eat like candy, or you can chop them up just as they are to use in fruitcake. I know, now you want the fruitcake recipe.

DISCLAIMER: in the bowl full of candied fruit at right you’ll see brilliant colors. That’s because I wanted color in the cake, and the color of the natural fruit was very light and muted. So I put the pomello in a bowl and mixed in a bit of green food coloring. The red fruit is orange peel with some red food coloring.

What do you do with all that de-nuded fruit? How about ORANGE FRITTERS!

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