Dried and glacé fruits are still highly prized today as they were centuries ago. They are often the significant ingredients of many festive foods.
Christmas time is only one of several occasions when you will find many culinary items containing dried fruits and glacé (candied) fruits, like fruit cakes, oatmeal cookies, tarts, and quick bread. For many places in the world, these culinary yuletide traditions have been with them since they were young, the traditions passed from generation to generation. Even with differing cultures, the festivities and religious beliefs shape the use of nuts and candied fruits for festive foods.
It is fascinating to know how nuts and candied fruits became associated with festive food items. Whenever you need large quantities of high-quality dried fruits, candied fruits, and other ingredients, find them at reputable ingredient suppliers in the UK.
Many desserts, especially those that people traditionally serve during the holidays, contain plenty of nuts, dried and candied fruits. Think of fruit cakes, stollen, panettone, panforte, mince meats and mince tarts, and a variety of other desserts. Many food items today use candied and dried fruits, as well as nuts as ingredients to add more flavour to favourite dishes.
Consuming candied fruits, nuts, and dried fruits can be traced back to the Holy Land. Others believe the rich ingredients in fruit cakes symbolize the gifts of the Three Kings to the child Jesus. Here are some reasons why we associate dried fruits and nuts with Christmas.
Fresh fruits and nuts in the Holy Land
Candied and dried fruits are available in the Holy Land. The Crusaders brought them to Europe. The journey from the Holy Land to Europe is long and fresh fruits are perishable. They later discovered that the hot and dry climate in the Holy Land drew out the moisture from the fruits. The dehydration increases their shelf life. The dried fruits were easier to transport and became valuable gifts.
Climate is also one reason why drying fruits became popular. In the Scandinavian and northern European countries, the fruits and nuts are seasonal. Drying and preserving the delicacies makes them available throughout the year.
In medieval times, nuts and dried fruits were highly prized. They were also scarce. These items commanded a high price, making these precious ingredients good enough to be given as gifts to royalty. They became popular as extraordinary treats, especially during the winter months.
Feast of Saint Nicholas
The reasons nuts and dried and candied fruits are associated with Christmas vary. For many European countries, the tradition came from Saint Nicholas, who brings oranges, nuts, and other treats on his feast day. In the Netherlands, parents leave the tasty treats in the shoes of good children. In other countries, Saint Nicholas brings large sacks of nuts and other goodies and strews them on the floor and allows children to gather them.
Association with fertility
In ancient times, a good nut harvest meant the birth of more children the following year, making nuts a fertility charm. They scattered nuts on the ground at winter holidays and weddings. Some religions in the past believed that the three parts of the nut, the kernel, skin, and shell represent the Holy Trinity.
Keep in mind that the fruits are dehydrated, but they contain more fibre and antioxidants. Their taste is more concentrated, with most of their nutrients intact.