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Okay, just how bad is that candied fruit you can buy at the grocery store? An embarrassing admission...

I always get these ideas in my head at the last minute and then I get stubborn about them! My mom really likes fruitcake and I wanted to make her some for Christmas this year. Of course, I thought of this a couple of nights ago! Now, I know fruitcake purists say to only use good candied fruit and that you have to make them far in advance... I get that and I appreciate that. However, me and my stubborn self went to the grocery store last night in search of the ingredients for the Fruitcake Gems from Rose's Christmas Cookies. First, I went to Whole Foods and they didn't have anything, which I was a little surprised at, and I figured if I can't get candied fruit there, I'm probably not going to find it anywhere else in Kansas City. So, then I head on to my local grocery store to get the rest of my groceries and there in the baking aisle is candied fruit! So, I decide to go ahead and get it knowing full well that it's probably crappy and Chowhounds will laugh at me! So, then I go home to make the little gems and halfway through realize I don't have molasses- so I'm pissed at myself and decide to hold off until tonight.
Should I...
A.) Go ahead and make the fruitcakes with the candied fruit, it's not that bad? (I tasted it, but I've never had good candied fruit, so I have no comparison!)
B.) Do the quick version of fruitcake from Alton Brown that gridder posted about?
C.) Give it up and do it next year with proper timing and proper candied fruit?

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  1. You bought the fruit, might as well use it. Your Mom might not know about the "better" candied fruit anyway and think it's just fine. Next year you can do it up right and have a basis for comparison.

    1. You can't get candied fruit at Whole Foods because they contain artificial dyes. For the same reason, you can't get standard, old-fashioned maraschino cherries at Whole Foods.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Atomica

        Ahh... Interesting, so even good candied fruit is dyed?

      2. Hey KN just do it! It doesn't have to be perfect. Fruitcake made "incorrectly" still blesses your friends and family.

        I've made fruitcake for years in various versions from bishop's bread to panforte. Unless you start in October: just make it with the candied fruit from the grocery store. It looks festive and appealing. Skip the finely chopped mixed peel stuff though. You can make a decent fruitcake with orange peel, lemon peel, candied pineapple, dates and candied cherries.

        I'm at work at the moment, but later I will post my standby recipe. The fruit and nuts go in whole, and it takes less than 2 hours from start to finish. The hardest part is lining the tin with parchment.

        5 Replies
        1. re: shindiganna

          By the mixed peel stuff, do you mean the citron? This recipe just calls for candied fruit and citron. (I'm so clueless here!)

          1. re: Katie Nell

            No, citron is a specific fruit which is candied. Most supermarkets will have small tubs of orange peel, lemon peel, citron, cherries, and maybe also pineapple, and also bigger tubs of mixed peel with cherries (often labeled as "fruitcake mix" or the like.) You should buy the single varieties rather than the mixed.

            Also, feel free to substitute any mixture you prefer as long as the weight or measurement adds up - so if it calls for, say, 24 oz. of raisins and dates, and you prefer dried apricots and prunes, go ahead and substitute. (Well, don't get too carried away with the prunes, because they're so much moister than a lot of other dried fruit, but I'll vouch for them being excellent in a fruitcake.) Same with the candied fruit - feel free to adjust the balance so long as the amount adds up to the same as the recipe calls for.

            1. re: Allstonian

              I put in some "infused" dried cranberries I had around in addition to the candied fruit. Next time I want to try the pineapples. I made cookies, so I was thrilled to find fruit labelled "Olde English" which were chopped up very fine, saved me lots of work. Next time I'll pour some water over too, they do have a certain taste, although it's authentic if you're used to regular fruitcake.

            2. re: Katie Nell

              Hi KN

              no citron is different. What I'm talking about is a large container called fruitcake mix or tutti frutti, which is finely diced fruits, with a great deal of bitter peel. yuck!

              Not sure where mom found this recipe, but it's been a big hit, even with the most determined despisers of fruitcake. The batter basically serves to bind the fruits and nuts, so while you're mixing it seems a bit skimpy. Take your time.

              Part of why this recipe is so easy is that it uses standard package sizes. When you buy the fruit, it's basically premeasured.

              1 lb Brazil nuts
              8 oz walnuts
              8 oz pitted dates
              8 oz golden raisins
              8 oz candied cherries (red only please!)
              4 oz candied orange peel
              4 oz candied lemon peel or citron
              4 oz candied pineapple (tidbits or rings cut into tidbits)
              1 1/2 C flour, sifted
              1 1/4 C sugar
              1 t baking powder
              1/2 t salt
              6 eggs
              1 oz brandy, bourbon, or rum

              Prepare pan: tube pan, well greased and bottom lined with wax paper.

              Combine fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Mix flour, sugar, salt baking powder and sift over fruit. Beat eggs and brandy extract until light. Mix thoroughly. Pour into pan and press with dampened hands to compact. Bake in the center of a 300 degree oven for 2 hours. Cool several hours or overnight. Slice thinly with serrated knife.

              1. re: shindiganna

                Dang it! The fruitcake mix *is* what I bought! I might go ahead and make it as is since I already have 1/2 the recipe done, but next year, I'm going to do it for real! I'm really interested in candying my own fruit now! Thanks for all the help, and esp. the recipe shindiganna and everyone!

          2. Here's a trick I used to use when making fruitcake, which will improve supermarket candied fruit by reducing the super-gloppy sugariness: put the fruit in a big strainer and pour about a quart of boiling water over it. Don't let it steep in hot water or anything, just give it a quick hot rinse to take away the extra sugary goo. It really helps!

            BTW, for future reference the candied fruits from King Arthur/The Baker's Catalogue are excellent.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Allstonian

              Great idea about the boiling water Allstonian!

              1. I am really not a fan of bought candied fruit and made my own this year. It is a fairly long process so I wouldn't recommend it at this point. Next year.


                I didn't do all my own fruit, I went to my local health food store and bought an assortment of dried mangos, papaya, cherries, blueberries and pears and used them in my cake as well as the standard raisins, etc.

                I did this last year too and it made for a wonderful cake. And to get some of the bitterness associated with fruit peel throw in some seville orange marmelade.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Mila

                  I totally agree. Dried fruit is the way to go. I use dried cherries, dried pineapple, raisins and cranberries and the result is lovely, if I do say so myself.

                  1. re: Snackish

                    Snackish & Mila, can you use the dried fruit as-is, or do you moisten it somehow? Thank you!

                    1. re: blue room

                      I would suggest soaking the fruit in whatever boozey or non-alcoholic beverage of your choice, overnight. Then strain the fruit and if you want to use the strained liquid to make up the liquid in the batter do that.

                2. My mother makes a great german "stollen" with the candied fruit. We used to pick it out and leave it on the plate.
                  Now, she grinds it up in a food processer. It is much better this way--gives the flavor without being overpowering.

                  1. Okay, husband convinced me not to do it and I think he's right. I'm just going to start over again next year with better ingredients and more time... lesson learned! Thanks everyone for your help! I'll be reporting back next Christmas!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      KN.. since you have most of the ingredients GO FOR IT! I'm not a big fan of the fruitcake mix, but honestly it's not HORRIBLE.

                      Use what you have. I've played around with the ingredients substituting candied ginger, and other candied fruit based on what's available. It comes out well as long as you use 1 1/2 lbs of nuts and about 2 - 2 1/4 lbs of fruit.

                      The recipe is easily halved to make one loaf rather than a giant ring.

                    2. I am the official ambassador for the Alton Brown Free Range Fruitcake this year. No weeks-of-soaking, no candied stuff (only dried fruits) and it tastes terriffic. I just ate a piece, and am telling everyone -- It is not too late for fruitcake this year! In fact, I am making a new batch tonight.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gridder

                        I am too! My husband makes a double batch of his fruit cake every year. I just had a piece of it tonight :) The dried fruit can be expensive but it is very very very worth it! Yummiest fruit cake ever!

                      2. gridder, I think I'll give it a try.

                        ps. glad to see so many other fruitcake fans.. Merry Yule!

                        1. Russ & Daughters makes fabulous dried fruits, which they will ship. Start there. http://www.russanddaughters.com/pr_sw...

                          In fact, I might make fruitcake-for-adults without candying them at all, or maybe with honey or Steen's Cane Syrup. http://www.steensyrup.com/

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KRS

                            In the past I've used the "Australian Glace Fruits" from Sahadis.

                          2. Out here in the hinterlands this high-end candied fruit you all talk about is a little hard to come buy. I usually use the Old-English stuff that comes in 1 lb. tubs. But the last time I was to the store looking for fruit I bought some kind of dried-fruit mix that I think I'll put in.

                            One of the things my recipe says is to toss the fruit & nuts with flour; that keeps them from sticking together and makes it easier to mix them into the batter. I use pecans for the nuts since I don't much care for either brazil nuts or walnuts, and native pecans from southern Kansas are always available courtesy of my family who still lives there.

                            But my fruitcake recipe is one of those that says it has to rest, wrapped in brandy-soaked cloth, for 4 months; and I got a late start, so there won't be fruitcake this year. But it'll be wonderful next year. (There are, amazingly enough, plenty of people I know who like it, although my husband is not one of them and he ridicules me every time I decide to make it. That's okay--more for me.)

                            1. I think grocery store candied orange peel and lemon peel are OK (better than the mixed peel) but I probably wouldn't touch candied pineapple or glaceed cherries (these aren't my favorite anyway). My fruitcake recipe has raisins, golden raisins, currants, and candied peel in it, and my panforte recipe has orange peel, prunes, dried figs and nuts.

                              1. Well, this chowhound won't laugh at you. This time of year is all about tradition, and I buy the wierd red and green stuff to make my mom's fruitcake drop cookies every year, and they look and taste just like hers always did, and even people who say they don't like fruitcake are happy to eat them. Get whatever you think your mom will like, and have fun making it and eating it with her.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: zorra

                                  I agree, my Mom makes "santa's whiskers", which are butter cookies w/ finely chopped horrid green and red cherries + pecans. Rolled into a log, rolled in coconut, sliced and baked. I ate all the ones she gave me this morning for breakfast. I like 'em.

                                  I think it's the "finely chopped" part that makes you not notice the scaryness of it all.

                                  BTW, Isn't there a Dean and Deluca in Kansas City? They might have glaceed fruits.

                                  1. re: danna

                                    I called D&D and they said they didn't have them, but who knows- no one I ever talk to there knows what the heck they're talking about!! At any rate, I decided to hold off until next year- I kind of wanted this to be a special present and in the end, I just couldn't make myself use the stuff from the grocery store!

                                  2. re: zorra

                                    right on Zorra. Glaceed is just a fancy word for candied...

                                  3. There's nothing wrong with getting that kind of stuff from the grocery stores. Some of the grocery stores carry some good stuff, like Save Mart. Don't worry about anyone laughing at you, it's all about whether you like the taste of them or not. Besides, after you put in the booze for the fruit cake, that covers most of the flavors.

                                    1. Yesterday at a silversmith's open house, I had some really delicious brandied cherries - she said they were the candied cherries from the grocery store in the plastic tub - that she had macerated in brandy. She had used them to top a baked brie en croute (inside). At first I thought they were grapes and had avoided them (baked grapes, ick) but she told me what the were, now I want to make some!

                                      1. It's made with CORN SYRUP which makes it disgusting - would be interested in a source made with actual sugar.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Cinnamon

                                          good luck.
                                          unless you grow it yourself, candy it yourself, or find an extraordinary manufacturer, there will be something impure about it.

                                          Sulfur, food coloring, corn syrup...
                                          how was the flour milled? the sugar?
                                          Where did the fruit come from? Is it a country that uses DDT?

                                          I agree with you about the corn syrup...its not great. But once a year? I say go for it! Abandon perfectionism! Have some fun!

                                          I'll say it again Fruitcake made imperfectly still blesses your friends and family...

                                        2. I love fruitcake and have made several variations over the years. I prefer dried fruit over the candied fruit but I like to add a little ol'school to my cakes with candied citron, candied pineapple or mango (found in the bulk food aisle). Alton Brown's fruit cake recipe looks great and should turn out well. I also recommend investigating Anna Thomas' Vegetarian Epicure, Vol. 2. There are two fruitcakes in the dessert section that are very similar to AB's. One recipe even uses chocolate - it has been known to convert former fruitcake haters. Personally, I think there should be a new tradition of Valentine's fruitcakes for those of us who get started late or those who want fruitcake beyond Christmas. BTW, the candied fruit lasts forever so you can use it for other recipes.

                                          1. I've made this recipe twice already this year - once for my aged FIL and once for us. I haven't actually tried it yet, but Mr GG and his Dad have and they say it's fab-u-lous. And no candied peel!


                                            1. Nobody has mentioned yet ... the problem with grocery store candied fruit is that it is often NOT genuine fruit!!

                                              Check the ingredient list - you may find that what looks like candied lemon or orange bits are actually candied RUTABAGA with artificial flavourings!!!

                                              Caveat Emptor!!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: gharris

                                                I agree. It's unfortunately extremely difficult to find good candied fruits in the US and when you do, it's usually not very good.
                                                I found French candied fruits online, ordered them, and was in paradise when I tasted them: http://www.histoiresucree.com/meta_ca...
                                                They are real fruit from Provence and they are covered with a thin coating of sugar, which doesn't make them taste too sweet.

                                                1. re: kate62

                                                  Seeing the price of some of that French candied fruit - WOW some of that stuff is expensive.

                                                  This reminds me of a question I have. I ** love ** fruitcake, but haven't made it for several years due to the cost. Does anyone have any cost saving ideas so making fruitcake is more affordable? The cost of the fruits and nuts add up quickly.


                                                  1. re: PastorDIC

                                                    @PastorDIC, maybe try an English fruitcake? Raisins, golden raisins, currants are the main ingredients. Here's an example:

                                              2. To buy enough French or other luxury candied fruit (even in France) would cost a fortune, hundreds of dollars. The grocery store stuff is expensive enough (I bought mine this year from Amazon, which beat NYC supermarket prices nicely). You can wash off the syrup the fruit is in, in hot water, if you want to downpedal the corn syrup aspect. Just made 15 lb (3 9x5 commercial aluminum loaf pans full) of fruitcake for my husband's family from their recipe (they like a dark one, our family recipe is sort of midway between dark and light, no spices or molasses) and it smelled awfully good baking (made a very small pan for us for tasting). How much of it are you going to eat anyway? Make it with what you can get.

                                                1. I did Alton Brown's fruitcake last year --

                                                  It's made with *dried* fruits, which I got from Whole Foods from the bulk bins--bought only as much as I needed. It turned out very well.