The most beautiful storefront in all of Western Europe can be found on a little cobbled street in Salzburg, Austria. In this storefront, a dazzling assortment of every imaginable kind of fruit, each beautifully and deliciously preserved, is arranged in an abundant and artful display. It is spectacular to see. The prices, alas, are also spectacular – spectacularly high – making this particular stop a “look but don’t touch” destination.
While I was unable to leave with a treasure bag of purchased preserved fruit, I left with plenty of inspiration to recreate these treats at home on a more reasonable budget. It’s actually a very simple process, and very affordable! For less than the price of chips and salsa, you can bring a plate of jewel-toned, candy-like fruit to your next social event. Even if your cooking skills are limited to boiling water – seriously – you can do this!
2 pounds fresh fruit with a firm texture such as pineapple, mango, papaya, figs, or plums
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or clove
Step 1) Working with one type of fruit at a time (preserve different types of fruit in separate batches), peel and slice fruit into 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside.
Step 2) Bring sugar, water, and spice to a boil in a large, wide pot. Allow syrup mixture to boil vigorously and reach a temperature of roughly 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 3) Add fruit and reduce heat to simmer. Spread fruit pieces around with a stirring spoon so that fruit is in a single layer on the bottom of the pot, covered in syrup.
Step 4) Simmer, uncovered, until fruit looks glossy and turns translucent in color. For pineapple, this takes approximately 30 minutes. For plums, this takes approximately 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending upon your choice of fruit and the thickness of your fruit slices. Once fruit turns translucent in color, remove pot from heat and cover. Allow fruit to soak in the syrup overnight.
Step 5) The next day, remove fruit from syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack. Allow fruit to dry for several days at room temperature, or speed up the drying process by placing the fruit in a slightly warm oven (absolutely no hotter than 200 degrees!) for several hours.
Step 6) After fruit is dry, sprinkle lightly with sugar. Store in a tightly covered container. If long term storage is needed, placing the container in a freezer will preserve optimum flavor. Enjoy!
***Bonus!*** Save that cooking syrup! Seriously, taste it. The sugar syrup takes on the flavors and colors of the fruit, and stores well in the refrigerator. A teaspoon of fruit syrup is lovely drizzled over a bowl of oatmeal. I’m told that an ounce of syrup isn’t half bad in a martini glass with a shot or two of vodka, either. ;)