How to Get the Right Texture When Cooking Fruit
Did more than one person send fruit to you this year, and you’re not sure what to do with the extras? Did you order fruit with the intention of using some of it for cooking? Whether it’s apples or mangos, fruit that’s cooked is delicious – but if you’ve never done it before, getting the texture just right can be a bit problematic. That’s because fruit softens as it is heated, and the longer it cooks, the softer it gets.
The Type of Fruit Matters
Before you go into the fruit delivery you received to look for fruits to cook, keep in mind that the kind of fruit and variety of the type matters. For instance, Bartlett pears are great for cooking because they hold together well, while Comice pears are not because they tend to get mushy or fall apart when cooked whole or used in pies. If you plan to cook with it, be sure to do your research so you can shop fruits that are rated well for cooking.
How You Cook Fruit Matters
Other factors that can affect the texture of cooked fruit, such as its ripeness, when or whether you add sugar, and how you cook it.
Sweet, tender fruit takes only a few minutes to cook. That’s because, during ripening, the fruit’s texture changes – firm, insoluble substances (hemicelluloses and pectic substances) break down, convert to water-soluble pectin, and dissolve so the fruit becomes soft and tender. In a case like this, where you get your fruit matters, too – if you order an orchard and orange fruit basket from Pittman & Davis, you can cook your Rio Ruby Red Grapefruit and other citrus (like navels) fruit quickly because our citrus fruit is always perfectly ripe when it arrives. Pears, on the other hand, are sent to you a little less ripe, so if you choose to not let them ripen fully before cooking them, you will need to cook them longer.
Rapid, high-heat cooking (such as grilling, broiling, or boiling) will keep fully ripened fruit firmer than longer, low-heat cooking. These are good methods to use when enjoying cooked fruit whole or using it to create chunkier preserves.
Sugar Helps Fruit Maintain its Shape During Cooking
Apart from the ripeness of the fruit you plan to cook, think about adding sugar. Sugar can keep cooked fruits from getting soft and mushy by slowing down the conversion of those insoluble pectic substances into water-soluble pectin. Very ripe or delicate fruits hold together better when cooked with sugar. This is especially apparent when cooking berries, which can turn to mush when cooked with plain water. You don’t want to use too much sugar, though – particularly when cooking firmer fruits, as this could lead to the fruit developing a tough texture.
Brown sugar, molasses, and hard water, which contain calcium, can also help fruit maintain texture while cooking. This is because calcium reacts with fruit’s pectic substances to form insoluble calcium compounds that make food firmer. If you’re making a raspberry sauce and you want the fruit to maintain some shape, try cooking the berries with a tablespoon or so of brown sugar.
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