Until next June 21, the city of Pelotas, once a leading center in the production of a salt dried meat called “charque” (I will surely write a bit about that on another occasion), is holding its annual “Feira Nacional do Doce” – FENADOCE (something like a National Fair on Sweets) based specially on traditional Portuguese recipes. Clearly, something not to be missed, if you enjoy sugar in its several forms and presentations. Thus, last weekend I drove about 60 km with my family to taste some of the most delicious sweets they have available for the near 300,000 people who visit the fair annually.
Among my favorite sweets are the crystallized (or candied) fruits, specially figs. A small factory was set up inside the fair so that you could follow their industrial preparation, which in fact is not very different from what you can do at home. The central ideia of the process is to make the fruit absorb sugar to saturation point preventing the growth of microorganisms. The fruits can then be kept in dried places for quite a long time.
You will need a large pan and about 5 kg of green figs, 4 kg of sugar, some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and water. Wash the figs, cover them with water, add 2-3 spoons of baking soda, and bring to boil for about 30 min. Drain the water and wash the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and water just enough to cover the fruits, and then boil them for about 2-3 hours. I usually add one small piece of cinnamon and a couple of cloves to the syrup. Let the fruits cool down in the syrup and reserve until the next day, so that they have plenty of time to absorb the sugar. In the next day bring to boil again for another 2-3 hours. Let them cool once again in the syrup and then remove the fruits and put them to dry on a sieve for another day. After dried pass the fruits in crystal sugar and return them back the sieve for another couple of hours. Repeat the last step once or twice until the fruits are fully dried and covered with the crystal sugar.
You can try the same basic recipe with other fruits, like peaches, bananas, etc (if the fruit is large cut it in small pieces). I guarantee the final result is worth the effort.
If you happen to be in Brazil in June don’t miss the next FENADOCE, which, as I’ve already pointed, is an annual event.