In general I dislike candied fruit in anything because it has a bad texture, it doesn't really taste like the fruit and it is cloyingly sweet, though it is attractive. Thus, I figure I can get the best of both worlds if I create a recipe to partially candy the fruit, leaving it softer and more fruity in flavor with more moisture and not as sweet than that found in commercial brands of candied fruit. I explain my favorite use of the fruit in the next paragraph where I describe how I make a festive colorful almond bark with bits of fruit in it.
I like to make almond bark for Christmas and give some of it to family and close friends as a gift. A few years ago I thought that the addition of tiny pieces of maraschino cherries, both red and green, and tiny bits of pineapple, would make a pretty and festive holiday addition in the almond bark. I was right.
All I had to do was cut the fruits (each maraschino cherry was cut into eight pieces) and dry the pieces briefly between paper towels to keep them from being wet. The drying avoided having the color from the fruit juice/syrup affect the appearance of the almond bark by migrating away from the fruit into the melted white chocolate surrounding it. Then all I had to do was spread pieces of blanched chopped roasted almonds evenly on waxed paper on a cookie sheet, add the fruit pieces evenly all over, and then gently pour melted white chocolate over the nut and fruit pieces, to a thickness of 1/4". I then let the candy cool and become firm, and then I cut it into squares about 1 1/2" on a side. I store it in a sealed plastic food container with small sheets of waxed paper between layers of the candy. I have also used shallow plastic candy molds and they have the added advantages of creating standard geometric shapes and displaying the almond pieces and fruit pieces very attractively on the bottom surface.
This morning I thought about some changes/improvements to my recipe that will replace the maraschino cherries and pineapple with slightly candied versions of each. That means I considered making slightly candied fruit from either fresh or canned cherries or maraschino cherries or fresh or canned pineapple.
I am about to conduct this experiment and I have started by getting two different types of candied cherry recipes from the Internet. I will work at this until I get what I want, and then I will make my almond bark with my new version of candied fruit. It will be excellent. I will report back when I have accomplished my goal.
Internet recipe #1:
This recipe makes 8 to 9 ounces of candied cherries, starting with maraschino cherries.
1, 16-ounce jar of maraschino cherries
3/4 cup of sugar
Drain the cherries, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. (I say all the juice should be used to capture the flavor! So what if it extends the cooking time by five or ten minutes?)
Combine the reserved juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Add the cherries, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, until the cherries are slightly shriveled and firm to the touch. Remove from the heat, uncover the pan, and let cool completely.
When the cherries have cooled, remove them to paper toweling and pat them dry.
You can use the leftover syrup in the pan in various ways; for example, use it with champagne to make the delightful cocktail drink known as Kir Royale.
You can store the cherries in a sealed container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Internet recipe #2:
This recipe is close to what I want to create, but I also want to be able to use maraschino cherries.
Here is a recipe for making candied cherries from fresh cherries instead of using maraschino cherries. It may take a bit longer but you avoid the excessive food coloring used in maraschino cherries and you adjust the color with your own food coloring to suit yourself.
1 pound of fresh sweet or sour cherries, rinsed
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Remove the stems and pit the cherries (Use a hand held cherry pitter to make this task easy.)
If you want you can add food coloring in the next step to affect the resulting color of the cherries and syrup.
Bring the cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil in a non-reactive four quart saucepan.
Reduce the heat so the cherries are cooking at a simmer/low boil.
Cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently during the last 10 minutes of cooking to make sure the cherries are cooking evenly and not sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
Once the syrup is mostly reduced and a brilliant ruby-color (or whatever color you have created), similar to the consistency of maple syrup, remove the pan from the heat and cool the cherries to room temperature.
After the cherries are cool they can be refrigerated in the syrup in a sealed container for short term storage, or vacuum sealed and frozen for up to one year.
Note: If the above recipe was modified somewhat to only concentrate the cherry flavor somewhat instead of reducing the liquid to a syrup, and was supplemented at the end with the addition of some cornstarch, it would be a good recipe to create cherry pie filling from fresh cherries ... of most any type.
Ray's Recipe for Slightly Candied Fruit:
If I were starting with fresh cherries I would use the recipe immediately above this one. Starting with maraschino cherries presents a somewhat different set of requirements to create fruit suitable for use in my almond bark, or for that matter many other recipes.
The ingredients are identical to those of the first Internet recipe shown above. Note that you can use canned or fresh pineapple tidbits instead of cherries to create lightly candied pineapple, that can then be processed like the cherries for addition to candies or baked goods.
Use the directions of the first Internet recipe above, but limit the cooking time to 20 minutes.
If you are making a candy like almond bark then drain and wipe the cherries and cut each one into eight pieces, then spread out the pieces on a paper towel, put another paper towel on top and press lightly to remove excess syrup.
If you processed pineapple tidbits instead of cherries then cut each tidbit into four pieces and spread out the pieces on a paper towel, put another paper towel on top and press lightly to remove excess syrup.