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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Decorative Candied Fruit Will Delight Sweet Tooth

Tsukaty is a funny word that may come from German word for sugar, zucker.

Or it may be an onomatopoeia. Imagine Cheburashka, a little animal-like creature with enormous eyes from a contemporary Russian children's story, whose onomatopoeic name comes from cheburakhnutsya, a children's word that means to drop down. Can you see Cheburashka sitting in a corner, quietly munching on a crunchy, tsukery treat -- tsuk-tsuk, tsuk-tsuk?

Tsukaty are candied fruits, some of the most delicate and exotic of which can be found in France. Danish and English cakes often are dotted with them, and a U.S. colleague said his grandmother once made him a cake shaped like a rocking horse, encrusted with candied fruits.

While tsukaty are not particularly Russian, the Russian influence on them is found in the ingredients. Besides the typical candied pears, peaches and pineapple, Russian tsukaty are made with ryabina, or rowanberries, and aiva, or quinces. In Russia, watermelon, melon, lemon and orange peels make the most popular tsukaty, but you also can find candied carrots, beetroots and cucumbers.

Those who eat the vegetable varieties say they taste the same as the fruit after tons of sugar have been pumped into them. They keep the color of the original -- green for watermelon, yellow for melon, white for cucumbers, orange for carrots and burgundy for beetroots.

Thanks to their colorful nature, tsukaty are used extensively as edible decorations. Baba, or a tall round cake often made with rum, the Russian Easter cake, kulich, and a sweet cream-cheese dish also made at Easter called paskha, are often brightened up with these multicolored gems. Before being mixed into the cake dough, tsukaty must be cut into small cubes and covered with flour so they don't stick together in one part of the cake.

To make tsukaty at home, first prepare the fruit or vegetables. If you choose oranges or lemons, let them sit for 24 hours in cold water, changing it a few times to wash away the bitterness in the peels of these sweet fruits. For melons and watermelons, cut the soft inside and the outer skin off, using the light green or white layer between the two.

Slice the prepared fruits into shapes, like crescents or cubes, and boil them about five minutes. Beware that they don't become too soft and fall apart in the water.

Pour out the water and cover the fruit with a sugar syrup, which varies depending on what fruit you're using. For the peels of 10 citrus fruits, mix four cups of sugar to one cup of water. For a kilogram of watermelon rind, you need five cups of sugar to three cups of water. Set the fruit aside for five to 12 hours to soak in the syrup. The sweeter the fruit, the shorter it has to sit in the syrup. Repeat this procedure two or three more times.

When the fruit is ready, scoop the pieces out of the syrup and put them in a sieve to allow the excess syrup to drip off. Roll them in sugar to make a crunchy coating and leave on a cheesecloth in a warm place until the tsukaty are completely dry. Store them in a cardboard box in a cool, dry place.