Friday, 6 December 2013

Visions of Sugar Plums

You don't just have to have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head ...

Whole glacé pears at 53 Degrees East
When putting together a Christmas feast, despite being very much in the twenty-first century, most of us hark back to older times. How many people do you know who will sit down to molecular gastronomy inspired dinners and how many will have Nan's pud? I ask you. Honestly.

However fancy we may get at the rest of the year, at Yuletide, everyone seems to want to go back to something traditional, something cosy. Something positively medieval.

Sugar plums actually came about in the seventeenth century. Not necessarily dried plums (aka prunes) they were dried fruits mixed with spices and sweeteners and given a hard coating. The coating process was long and dull and led to an end result with a hard shell - like sugar almonds or (more prosaically) M&Ms.
Glacé whole clementines at the Essential Ingredient
Glacé cherries at the Essential Ingredient

You can still find sweets like this today - known in the confectionery world as dragée. Or you can plump for the soft sweetness of glacé fruit, a fourteenth century staple. We have an amazing selection here at the Market. Wandering through the Essential Ingredient I found whole clementines! Pear quarters! Cedro! And dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries.

And at Pete n Rosie's Deli, you can select your precise weight of sour cherries. Incidentally, these are perfect atop Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and are almost impossible to find elsewhere in this natural state.

Cherries at Pete n Rosie's Deli
The Sweet and Nut Shop stock a wide range of Australian and imported glacé fruits, including ginger, pineapple, apricot, pear, peach and kiwi! Glacé kiwi - did you ever see such a thing? You can truly make a downunder festive cake!

Glacé peaches at the Sweet and Nut Shop
For best results, you must steep your fruits in alcohol months in advance. Most hard core CWA types will stick to maturing it in brandy or rum, me I like fig liquer. But some of these more unusual glacé offerings are so light that it would almost be a shame to drown their delicacy with a heavy, cloying liquer.

Fruits can be mixed into plum puddings, mince tarts, fruit cake and the perennial Australian favourite, ice cream pudding. With Melbourne's changeable weather, you never know what you might need to have on hand!
Glacé Fruit Gift Pack at the Sweet and Nut Shop
So pop in, stock up and steep. It's going to be a sweet, sweet Christmas ...

Glacé fruit at 53 Degrees East

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