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The term sweetmeats usually refers to candy or sweet confections. It has often been shortened simply to sweets,
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as in “Sweets to the Sweet.” Sweetmeats likely first began as a way of preserving fruit and/or nuts with sugar. Since sugars act as a preservative, the process of making candied fruit or nuts might aid in keeping some food items past the point when they would naturally decay.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Ancient Egyptians may have been the first culture to make sweetmeats or candy. Likely, these were made with honey. Doctors in the Middle Ages often concealed bitter medicine in candy form, so that it was more palatable to patients. However, many patients believed that medicine wasn’t working unless it tasted awful.

Sweetmeats for pleasurable consumption date back in Europe to England’s sugarplums, in the 17th century. Sugarplums were boiled sweetmeats usually made from a combination of dates, almonds, spices and honey or sugar. They were often formed into plum size shapes. Some also suggest candied raisins may have been termed sugarplums

When sugar became more commercially available, large-scale manufacture of sweetmeats began. These included traditional sweetmeats like Turkish Delight, taffy, toffee, tablet, and candies made with marzipan. All could technically be considered sweetmeats.

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