Join Jose Mier in His Sun Valley, CA Kitchen for a Delicious Treat
Candied apples, with their glossy, sugary shells encasing crisp, juicy fruit, have become an iconic treat at county fairs across the United States and beyond. These vibrant red, green, and sometimes even blue confections evoke a sense of nostalgia and childhood delight. However, the history of candied apples is far from simple, and its journey from ancient indulgence to modern fairground favorite is a tale worth exploring. In this article, we’ll delve into the rich history of candied apples, tracing their roots, evolution, and how they became beloved staples of county fairs. Additionally, we’ll provide a delectable recipe for making your own candied apples.
- Ancient Beginnings: Early Candied Fruits
The art of candying fruits can be traced back to ancient civilizations. One of the earliest known methods of preserving fruits with sugar dates back to ancient Egypt, where they used honey as a sweetener. The concept spread to Greece and Rome, where various fruits were candied for both medicinal and culinary purposes.
- Medieval Europe: The Emergence of Sugar as a Luxurious Treat
Throughout the Middle Ages, sugar was considered a luxury reserved for the wealthy. It was an expensive commodity imported from the Middle East. Candying fruits became a status symbol, and fruits like quinces and citrus were often candied to showcase affluence and sophistication.
III. Renaissance Delicacies: Candied Apples Make an Appearance
Candied apples made their first documented appearance during the Renaissance. Cookbooks from the period, such as “The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchin” (1594) by Thomas Dawson, contained recipes for candying apples and other fruits. These recipes usually involved boiling apples in sugar syrup, which resulted in a sweet, candied coating.
- Colonial America: The Roots of American Candy-Making
As European settlers arrived in North America, they brought with them the tradition of candying fruits. Apples, being a readily available fruit in the New World, were often candied using the methods inherited from Europe. These early candied apples were more akin to what we now know as caramel apples, with a boiled sugar coating.
- 19th Century: The Transition to Modern Candied Apples
The 19th century saw significant advancements in candying techniques, including the development of what we now recognize as the modern candied apple. In 1908, William W. Kolb, a candy maker from Newark, New Jersey, is credited with creating the first red candied apple. He experimented with different sugar coatings and red food dye to create the vibrant, glossy finish that became the hallmark of candied apples.
- 20th Century: Candied Apples at County Fairs
The 20th century marked the rise of candied apples as a popular treat at county fairs. Their association with fairgrounds and amusement parks began to take shape during this time. The combination of the sweet, crunchy coating and the tartness of the apple was an instant hit among fairgoers.
VII. Pop Culture and Candied Apples
Candied apples have made appearances in various forms of pop culture over the years. In literature, Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Candy Skull” featured a sinister variation of candied apples. In film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) showcased the poisoned apple as a central plot element. These portrayals contributed to the enduring image of candied apples in the collective imagination.
VIII. The Art of Making Candied Apples
Candied apples are more than just a delicious treat; they’re also a work of art. Creating the perfect candied apple requires precision and creativity. Here’s a step-by-step recipe for making your own candied apples:
Recipe: Homemade Candied Apples
- 6 medium-sized apples (preferably tart varieties like Granny Smith)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Wooden skewers or popsicle sticks
- Cooking spray or parchment paper for lining the baking sheet
- Wash and dry the apples thoroughly. Remove any wax coating by dipping them briefly in boiling water or scrubbing gently with a kitchen brush. Insert wooden skewers or popsicle sticks into the stem ends of the apples, making sure they’re secure.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or coated with cooking spray. This will prevent the candied apples from sticking to the surface.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, ensuring it doesn’t touch the bottom.
- Bring the sugar mixture to a boil without stirring. Continue to cook until it reaches the hard crack stage, which is around 300°F (149°C). This may take about 15-20 minutes.
- If desired, add red food coloring and vanilla extract to the sugar syrup, stirring until well incorporated. The food coloring will give your candied apples that classic red hue.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches the hard crack stage, remove it from heat immediately. Be cautious, as the syrup will be extremely hot.
- Carefully dip each apple into the hot sugar syrup, swirling and turning to coat it evenly. Allow any excess syrup to drip back into the pan.
- Place the coated apples on the prepared baking sheet to cool and harden. Work quickly, as the sugar coating will set fast.
- Let the candied apples cool completely before serving. You can speed up the process by placing them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Candied apples have come a long way from their ancient origins, evolving into a beloved treat enjoyed by people of all ages at county fairs and other festive gatherings. This sugary, fruity delight has transcended time and cultures, leaving a sweet legacy that continues to bring joy to our taste buds and our hearts. Whether enjoyed at a fair, a carnival, or made at home using the provided recipe, candied apples are sure to invoke feelings of nostalgia and delight, reminding us of simpler times and the joy of indulging in a sweet treat on a stick.