If your idea of glace (candied) fruits are supermarket pots of mixed peel, dyed red Maraschino cherries and lurid green shards of angelica, then think again. THESE are what proper glace fruits look like. It’s a method of preserving fruit that apparently dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. Fruit and or peel are heated in a thick sugar syrup. This absorbs the moisture from the fruit, preserving it in a process that can take up to a month.
Wikipedia sums it up better than I ever could:
“The ancient Romans preserved even fish by soaking it in honey. However, the real precursors of modern candying were the Arabs, who served candied citrus and roses at the important moments of their banquets. With the Arab domination of parts of southern Europe, the candied fruit made its way to the West. The first documents that demonstrate the use of candied fruit in Europe date back to the sixteenth century. At that time, the candied fruits were treated like spices. In Italy, they become a key ingredient of some of the most famous sweets of its culinary tradition: among these, the Milanese Panettone and the Cassata Siciliana.”
So, if you are planning on making your own Christmas cake this year, think about buying some real glace fruit and chopping your own, rather buying ready chopped mixed peel in the supermarket. Your tastebuds will thank you for it.
And if you are ever in Barcelina, do pop along to the Boqueria market off the Ramblas to buy some. It makes a smashing present.