Forget those rubbery, artificially-colored and flavored fruit slices from the store; instead, make your own naturally delicious, chewy, plump fruit treats at home. No longer a weeks-long process, you can candy fruit at home in a few hours. Cook slices or pieces of your favorite fruits in a simple sugar syrup to infuse the fruit with sugar and help the fruit retain its original colors and flavors. Enjoy the candied result as a snack, mixed into baked goods, or as a topping or garnish for specialty dishes.
Most fresh fruits can be transformed into candied fruit. Slice the citrus fruits you plan to candy, and process smaller fruits, such as cherries or strawberries, whole. Tropical fruits, including pineapples, papaya and kiwi, are typically candied in slices or chunks, but they can also be candied whole. Chunks of fresh melon turn into colorful, bite-sized chunks of sweet candy. Don't be afraid to try other fruits as well: It is not uncommon in specialty stores in Europe and elsewhere to find candied whole dates and figs, along with wild berries and whole pears.
Prepare the Fruit
Select the freshest possible fruit for your candied delicacies. Clean and dry the fruits thoroughly, and leave berries, cherries and strawberries whole. Slice citrus fruits, apples and kiwi into 1/4-inch slices; cut melons, pineapple, papaya and other larger fruits into bite-sized chunks. If you are preparing candied orange or lemon peel, carefully remove the peel and slice it into long, narrow strips. While the sliced, chunked or whole fruits require no additional preparation, you need to blanch the strips of citrus peel in boiling water for at least 20 minutes; then allow them to dry completely before putting them in the sugar-syrup.
In a large, heavy saucepan or stockpot, combine sugar and water to create a thick syrup. For most fruits, the sugar-to-water ratio should be three parts water to one part sugar: Use 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of sugar. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, and carefully add the prepared fruit to the syrup, making sure it is completely covered. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the fruit for 30 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally to turn the fruit slices. The goal is to cook the fruit until it is translucent, but not falling apart. When you're preparing candied citrus peel, the sugar-to-water ratio should be one-to-one.
Put wax paper on a cooking sheet and top it with a wire rack. Remove the cooked fruit from the syrup with a slotted spoon and put in onto the rack, and allow the fruit to cool and dry. When the fruit has dried completely, roll a few pieces at a time in a shallow dish of granulated sugar, taking care to coat each piece thoroughly. Put the pieces on a clean rack to dry. For storage, place the candied fruit in single layers on pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container. You can store candied citrus peel for up to a month and other fruits up to six months in the refrigerator or a cool, dry storage area.