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Since Ancient Times : Dried Fruit Favorites

February 27, 1986|TOM HOGE | Associated Press Wine and Food Writer

Dried fruits have been popular since ancient times. When King David was crowned, raisins were served at the royal feast. And in the 16th-Century French court of Francis I, women presented their admirers with baskets of dried prunes.

The first men to land on the moon ate dried peaches for dessert.

Fruits are dried to reduce their moisture content and to condense the sugar enough to prevent the formation of mold.

In ancient Rome, grapes were dried by dropping them in ashes to remove some of the natural moisture, then dried further in the sun.

Nowadays, most fruits are ripened on the tree or vine, then dried in trays exposed to the sun.

America began selling dried fruits on a large scale in the mid-19th Century and packing houses were soon opened.

Various lands have their favorite fruit mixtures. Cold dried-fruit soup is popular throughout Scandinavia. In Portugal, almond-stuffed dried figs are a big favorite. In Turkey, cooks use currants in preparing mussels. The English have long been fond of dried fruits in cakes and puddings.

Dried apricots, raisins and prunes are especially good in soups, as in the following recipe. DRIED FRUIT SOUP

8 cups cold water

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup chopped pitted prunes

1 cup raisins

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds

2 whole cloves

Large strip lemon peel

Apple cider

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Sour cream, optional

Combine water with apricots, prunes and raisins in saucepan. Bring to simmer, then remove pan from heat. Allow fruit to soak 3 hours.

Tie cardamom seeds, cloves and lemon peel in double thickness of cheesecloth. Add to saucepan of fruit mixture. Stir in 1 cup cider and almond extract. Simmer mixture, covered, 30 minutes.

Remove spice bag. Push fruit mixture through fine disk of food mill. Return puree to saucepan.

Mix 3 tablespoons cider with cornstarch in small bowl. Add mixture to puree. Cook over low heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Serve soup garnished with sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

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