What is Crystallized Fruit?

G. Wiesen

Crystallized fruit is fruit, often whole fruit or fruit that has been sliced though sometimes only the rind of a fruit is used, which has been preserved in sugar syrup and crystallized for use in a number of different applications. Sometimes referred to as glacé fruit, crystallized fruit is often set apart by the fact that once it has been candied it is sometimes dipped or coated in crystals of sugar as well. While this serves to make the fruit sweeter, it also adds to the shape and general appearance of the fruit, often making it appear as though it is encased in crystal.

Cherries are a popular choice for making crystallized fruit.
Cherries are a popular choice for making crystallized fruit.

Often used synonymously with candied fruit, crystallized fruit is typically purchased from a manufacturer, though it can be made at home. Common types of crystallized fruit include cherries, oranges, ginger, pineapple and dates. Traditionally, the fruit is covered in sugar syrup, and the sugar content of the syrup is increased over a period of several days, weeks, or even months. This process serves to draw moisture out of the fruit and replace that moisture with sugar instead.

Crystallized fruit includes dates.
Crystallized fruit includes dates.

Not only does this increase the sweetness of the fruit, but it also makes the environment within the fruit inhospitable to bacteria, thus preserving the fruit for months or even years without decay or decomposition. Crystallized fruit is typically then rolled in or sprinkled with sugar to make it even more attractive and sweeter. Large decorative or colored sugar is often used to further complement the look of the fruit.

Crystallized fruit can be made fairly easily, though the process can take weeks or months in the same manner that the commercial manufacturers crystallize fruit. Fruit is typically first prepared by cleaning and drying the fruit. Larger fruit may also be sliced into smaller sizes, and some fruits are pealed or otherwise prepared for crystallizing. Sometimes the rind of a fruit is used rather than the fruit itself; this is often done with oranges and lemons. Lime rinds produce an enzyme that breaks down the rind during crystallization, so they cannot be easily crystallized, though manufacturers have found a way around this issue.

Sugar and water are heated together to produce sugar syrup, which is then poured over the pieces of fruit, and they are allowed to sit for a length of time. This process is repeated over the course of several weeks or months with increasingly potent solutions of sugar syrup. Once complete, the excess syrup is drained off and the crystallized fruit can be rolled in or sprinkled with sugar, then is allowed to dry completely. Once properly crystallized, the fruit can easily last for months or even years and makes excellent decorations for cakes, served with petit fours, or included as edible table dressings.

Crytallized fruit is often used in fruitcakes.
Crytallized fruit is often used in fruitcakes.

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