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Seasons: I want candy

Susan Jung

 

I have never seen fresh angelica. I'd love to get my hands on some because I want to try candying it - the commercially available stuff is far too garish in colour.

I'm not sure why fresh angelica is so difficult to find in Hong Kong when one of the many varieties of the herb, Angelica sinensis, is an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine: the dried root, known as dong quai, is prescribed for "women's problems". You'd think if the root was used, the rest of the plant wouldn't go to waste. The angelica typically used for candying is a variety that grows in Europe, but that doesn't mean the Chinese stalks can't be used.

Angelica is candied only when the stalks that grow off the main plant are still tender. If they're too large and thick, they will be hard, tough and woody, and no amount of cooking will soften them. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh angelica stalks, candy them the way you would other firm ingredients.

Boil the angelica briefly, to soften it, add sugar, simmer for a few minutes, remove from the heat and let it soak for a day or two, so the syrup has time to penetrate. Many recipes use baking soda to brighten the colour, but that isn't necessary if you, like me, prefer a more subdued green. Remove the angelica from the syrup; put the syrup over the heat, stir in more sugar, then put the angelica back into the pan and let it simmer briefly before turning off the heat and letting it soak. Gradually add more and more sugar, letting the angelica simmer, then rest, over several days. This lets the herb slowly absorb the syrup so it's saturated from within; if you add too much sugar too quickly, it won't penetrate. After crystallising the angelica, leave it on a rack to dry overnight, turning it over halfway through. Roll it in fine granulated sugar then store it in an airtight container.

 

 

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