Homemade candy is my favorite treat to have on hand for holiday giving. It’s almost always easier than it looks, and is sure to please just about everyone. My current candy of choice? Pâte de fruit.
These colorful sweets are often served at high-end restaurants as an after-dinner bite, but they’re not inherently fancy. In fact, they’re little more than extra-thick jam, coated in sugar. There are many different approaches to making them at home — some recipes read like chemistry experiments and yield crystal-clear jewels, while others call for canned fruit and result in rustic candies. I like to strike a middle ground with a little science and a little character.
I start with pectin-filled apples to form the base of the candies. Apples are full of pectin, so they help to set the candy. Their relatively mild flavor can form the base for just about any other fruit flavor. Peeled, chopped, and quickly steamed, they collapse into a smooth applesauce with a few swipes of a potato masher.
Next, I bring in color — and sweet-tart flavor — with pomegranate juice. You can mix it up and use your favorite fruit juice here, but be sure to pick 100% juice with no sugar added. We’ll be adding plenty of sugar later.
Combine the pomegranate juice and applesauce with a cup of sugar, a hearty squeeze of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of powdered pectin. The pectin will set the fruit mix into chewy candies. It’s the same stuff used in jelly recipes, and it is made from fruit, plus a little sugar and citric acid. I used Sure-Jell brand pectin in this recipe. Other “natural” or low-sugar brands will likely work in the recipe, but you may need to experiment with other amounts or cooking times.
Bring the fruit and sugar mixture up to a simmer in a large, high-sided pot. Once the first cup of sugar has dissolved, add another cup and stir until the mixture returns to a simmer. At first, the fruit mixture will emit a lot of steam, and will form large, fluffy white bubbles. As the mixture cooks (and the water evaporates), it will noticeably thicken and the bubbles will become wet and sticky. At this point, you will need to stir frequently to prevent any fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Continue to simmer until the mixture reads 220 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. This temperature indicates that enough water has evaporated out of the mixture for it to form chewy candies.