We see them, beautiful and shiny, displayed a little like works of art in the windows of the best confectioner and fine grocer shops without always understanding how they are made.
To candy a fruit is quite simply to replace its water by a sufficiently cooked sugar to guarantee its conservation. Originally, (and for a very long time: fruit has been candied in honey since Roman times!) candying was first and foremost used as a conservation method for fruits, and not with the intention of preparing a delicacy of perfect beauty… In fact, candying is a little the ancestor of our modern-day preserves.
Originally from Italy, candied fruit is produced in a number of regions in France, those where there are plenty of orchards, but those made in Provence are the most famous… Probably because they still have an important place on the tables of Provencal celebrations, whether at Christmas among the traditional 13 desserts, for Epiphany with its King Cake (a brioche full of candied fruits replaces the puff pastry and frangipane Galette des Rois), and in the shape of a frozen dessert at the end of a Pantagruelian family meal!
In the 14th century the popes, then based in Avignon, were fans of these “dry jellies” and contributed to the development of their production in the Comtat Venaissin, and particularly in Apt, which would become the world capital. Then in 1868 an Englishman Mathieu Wood decided to export the delicacy to England.
Important families from Apt then stepped up production to meet demand by putting more industrial fabrication methods in place. Today, the two methods, industrial and artisanal, survive and co-exist. Even if many artisanal factories have closed their doors, a number of important confectioner lineages continue to exercise their profession, with respect for tradition.
Because the confectioner trade is handed down from father to son, and today these families - in which one falls into the “cauldron” practically from birth - are still principally based in the Apt region, but also throughout Provence, from Mont-Ventoux to the Alpilles and down to the Riviera, where in addition to fruit, flowers such as a the violet or the rose are candied.
Go and visit them this summer, you’ll see them hard at work, candying the fruits that they have carefully selected according to their variety and ripeness, and discover the magnificent scenery of the orchards, which have often been planted for this sweet production.
Confiserie Marcel Richaud
112 Quai de la Liberté 84400 Apt
04 90 74 13 56
Tips and hints for buying, eating and storing candied fruit
-Purchase drained fruits for all your culinary preparations, you can preserve them longer by keeping them in the refrigerator, and avoiding handling them with wet hands.
- As for glacé fruits, they are best stored in a sealed plastic container. Candied fruit dries out from contact with air.
- Advice from a confectioner: when you want to fully enjoy the flavors of a platter of assorted candied fruit, eat the fruit - like with wine or chocolate - starting with the least perfumed fruits to finish with those with the strongest flavors: apricot, plum, fig, melon, orange and clementine.