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Soaking Dried Fruit 101
How to soak fruits for your Christmas Cake? What kind of fruits to use? How long should you soak them for? This recipe will help you prepare for your Christmas Cake, all you need is a few ingredients.
Soaking dried fruit for Christmas is a tradition that flows through every single year in the Panikker household. Ideally we start the process a year in advance with the soaking. This enables a full bodied and juicy fruit later. However in this recipe I will talk about all the do’s and dont’s.
You don’t need a lot to make the base of your mixed fruit. An assortment of fruit is a must for sure but you also need alcohol to hydrate the fruit and some spices to add the necessary warmth and flavor. This recipe is an easy one to say the least as you mix everything and time does the trick. So let’s answer some of those questions before we get to the recipe.
What kind of fruit do you need?
The combination of fruit is endless and you can use any dried fruit you prefer as you will taste it in the cake later. This is the mixture I use and I personally love it.
Assorted Raisins –
I like using black raisins, currants, sultanas and golden raisins. You can use any you have and mix them up if you are like me. However black raisins add for that dark color in the filling. If you can get your hands on dried blueberries, you absolutely should use them.
This is not a traditional component but I like the moisture it adds to the mixture. Also the earthy sweetness adds for a depth of flavor. You can use any dates you have.
They not only add color but a layer or flavor as well.
Candied peel –
I am not a fan of candied peel but in this mixture it tastes lovely. You can
use lemon or orange candied peel.
Dried cranberries –
These plump up beautifully once stewed making the mixture very juicy. Dried blueberries work also. Even dried prunes are a lovely addition.
You can use fresh fruit as well like grated apple etc however, I wouldn’t recommend using it for a long soaking process and traditionally it is not used.
What alcohol should be used to soak the fruit?
I love using Brandy and sometimes a little Cointreau as well. Alcohol/Grape juice – Now this is subjective to your liking. I personally use a mix of Brandy and Cointreau, Dark rum also works well here.But my personal preference has to be Brandy with vanilla extract.
Can you soak fruit with non alcoholic liquid?
I have also made the mixture with dark grape juice, pomegranate juice and orange juice. You need to soak the fruit in this liquid to help them hydrate. Keep in mind a lot of liquid is needed to make this mixture hence use a flavor that you like. Preferably a dark fruit juice as the mixture should be on the darker side with all the fruits etc. If you are using fruit juice, the soaked fruit needs to be stored in the fridge as it will ferment with time so I would recommend using it soon. So you do not need to soak this mixture a year or even months in advance. A week ahead of time should suffice.
How long should you soak your fruit?
People soak their fruit for a year (like myself) but the point is to ensure the fruit has enough time to soak up all the liquid and gets plump. So you can soak them even for a month, 15 days, 5 days or even the night before you bake. I would recommend, if you don’t have much time and want to soak the fruit asap, you can warm the alcohol, ever so gently as you don’t want to evaporate the alcohol in the liquid – before adding it to the dried fruit. The heat will allow the fruit to soak it up faster. Same goes with fruit juice.
What flavors can you add?
I love adding a little vanilla and Christmas spice but here are a few more ideas.
This is not a traditional ingredient I think the flavor of honey is earthy and delicious in the fruit. Also it makes the liquid syrupy almost.
You can leave this out but it perfumes the mixture ever so lightly in a floral scent.
The mixed fruit mixture mainly requires you to have an air tight container that you will store the mixture in. Ideally this mixture can last for years if stored well. Hence don’t skip on a good jar to help this stay fresh.
Brown Sugar –
This is not to make the mixture sweet but to add a caramel flavor to the fruit. You can use coconut sugar or even jaggery if you like.
All Spice powder –
A little Christmas spice in the fruit is genius as it flavors the mixture inside out.
Orange zest –
This adds a zesty and refreshing note to the overall flavors.
Stem ginger –
You can make this by boiling ginger in sugar water until soft and tender. This syrup is great in cocktails or cakes etc while the ginger becomes this candy like ingredient that you can add in cakes or stews etc – quintessential for this time of year. I like to grate it into the mixture.
Where can I use the excess soaked fruit?
If you have any leftover soaked fruit from your christmas cake, you can make mince pies instead with the remaining fruit. I love making a trifle with cake, fresh fruit, nuts and the soaked fruit which make for a great presentation piece as well. To make things simple you can serve the soaked fruit with ice cream or in an Affogato, sometimes I like serving it with warm custard as well.
How to store the soaked fruit?
If you are soaking the fruit with alcohol ensure to store it in an air tight glass jar so the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Ideally in a cupboard away from sunlight or a dark spot in the house. This will keep for years without spoiling as the alcohol doesn’t allow any bacteria/yeast to form. If you are using any non alcoholic liquid, it must be stored in an air tight container but placed in the fridge for upto 1 week. If you are using fresh juice to make this make sure to use gloves and store it for 2-3 days, as the mixture will start fermenting.
Now that we have covered the basics let us soak our fruit. Happy Soaking Ninjas!
Soaking Dried Fruit 101
- Large bowl
- Glass jar/ Mason jar
- 60gm Black raisins
- 50gm Sultanas
- 50gm Golden raisins
- 50gm Dates
- 30gm Candied peel (orange)
- 40 gm Dried cranberries
- 50 gm Stem ginger optional
- 300ml Alcohol
- 1 tsp Honey
- 1 tsp Vanilla
Salt a pinch
- To make the mixed fruit. clean and wash the fruit, let it dry on a paper towel until completely dried.
- Pit the dates, chop the apricots and any of the fruit that isn’t uniform in size.
- Add all the ingredients in to an air tight glass jar and using a spoon try to stir the fruit around. Ensure the jar is air tight as this will help seal the flavor into the bottle allowing nothing to escape.
- Ideally you let the fruits soak up the liquid at least 24 hours before using it in any recipe.
- This can stay for years if stored well so be mindful and know that the effort it takes to make this is a one time affair.
- You can use it in many recipes once the fruit has soaked up all the lovely juices.
- If you don’t have stem ginger you can use a little fresh ginger that has been grated into the mixture. Or you could even leave it out.
- If you don’t have the time to wait for 24 hours to let the fruit soak, gently heat the liquid in a sauce pot and your over the fruit. While still warm transfer to an air tight jar and cover. The heat will help the fruit hydrate faster.