As you prepare your Christmas Plum Pudding, it's easy to buy those horrid containers of "candied peel" and "fruitcake mix" at the store. But those things are usually sold only around the Christmas holiday, and you're out of luck if you want to make a spiced fruitcake or pudding at any other time of the year. (For instance, the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha also includes the consumption of sweet cakes as part of the celebration.) Also – and more important – do you really want to include those big hunks of high fructose corn syrup-treated, gelatinized fruit in your own pudding?
Candied citrus is easy to prepare, but time-consuming. Your fruit peels need to soak in a sugar syrup brine for 12 to 24 hours (or even more, if possible), so be sure to prepare this at least one day before making the pudding. Two days works even better.
Pan needed: Saucepan for boiling the sugar syrup. Also, you need a colander to drain the boiling water, plus a cooling rack for the finished candy.
Slice the fruit into slices about a quarter of an inch thick.
Bring water to a boil in the saucepan. Boil the fruit slices for twenty minutes, to remove the bitterness. Drain the fruit slicers into a colander.
In a separate saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups granulated sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved in the water, then bring to a boil. When the sugar solution is boiling, add the fruit slices and reduce the boil to a simmer. Simmer the fruit in the syrup for ten minutes, the pour the entire contents of the saucepan (including the syrup) into a metal or glass bowl. Put the bowl in your refrigerator and leave it to soak in the sugar syrup for 12 to 24 hours. (48 hours' soaking time is even better.) The fruit slices are soaking in a sugar brine, in the same way you would brine a Thanksgiving turkey. The process of osmosis is causing the liquid to seep out of the fruit, then replaced with sugar.
The next day, before preparing your pudding, pour the bowl of syrup and fruit into a pan, and heat it up to a boil once again. When it begins boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer once again and simmer the fruit for twenty minutes. After 20 minutes, strain the fruit slices out of the syrup, onto a cooling rack. Let the fruit cool to room temperature, and slice it into small pieces – including the peel – for use in your pudding.