Candied Citrus Peel
If you have ever tasted hand-made candied citrus peel, you know it is an entirely different animal from mass-produced commercial peel. To me, the good stuff is addictively delicious (whether or not it is dipped in chocolate). And it is fantastic in recipes. With abundant organic citrus in the market, and still so few artisan-made candied peels available for purchase, there is every reason to make your own. If you are smart and planful, you will get to work in the winter and early spring when citrus is truly in season and has the most flavor in both fruit and peel. I am not always so organized, but I do care that the peel is organic. Years ago I was horrified by the smell of chemicals that emanated from the blanching pot during my first candying experience. This recipe presumes that you have not saved up citrus peel from other dishes or from fruit that you have eaten or served or juiced, which, of course, you can do; some cooks accumulate citrus peels in the freezer until they have enough to candy. You want about 4 cups of it for this recipe. It is also worth noting that purists candy only one type of peel in the same pot, but for every purist there are happy rule breakers.
Candied peel that is moist and chewy as well as tart and intensely flavorful includes some of the white pith under the colored zest layer of the skin. If you want a quicker zest only garnish for desserts, skip to the Quick Citrus Zest Garnish, which follows.
Equipment: Instant-read or candy thermometer
Makes3 to 4 cups
Total Timea day or more
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Recipe Coursedessert, snack
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturefruity, sweet, tart
Type of Dishdessert
- 4 bright-skinned preferably organic or unsprayed oranges, 2 grapefruit, or 6 to 8 lemons, limes, or tangerines
- 1½ cups water
- 1½ cups sugar, plus more for dredging
Use a sharp paring knife to score the peel of each fruit into quarters (or sixths if using grapefruit), cutting just through the skin from the top to bottom all around. Use your fingers to strip the peel from the fruit. It’s okay if some fruit is left on the peel for now. You should have 3 to 4 cups peel. Save the fruit for another dish.
Place the peel in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan and fill the pan with cold water, leaving just enough space for it to boil. Bring the water to a full rolling boil.
Drain the peel and dump it into a large bowl of cold water to cool for a minute.
Drain and return the peel to the saucepan.
Repeat the entire blanching and cooling sequence twice for thin-skinned Meyer lemons or tangerines, three times for oranges, regular lemons, or tangelos, or four times for grapefruit. (Blanching rids the fruit of excess harshness and astringency and tenderizes it. The number of blanchings is not cast in stone. With experience, you may increase or decrease the number to get the tenderness and flavor that you like. Even fruit of the same variety varies in texture, skin thickness, and bitterness, so use my guidelines as you will.)
After the final blanching and draining, use a small sharp knife to scrape only the mushiest part of the white pith (and any fruit left on the peel) gently from the peel, leaving thicker lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels about ¼ inch thick and thinner tangerine or Meyer lemon peels about 1/8 inch thick (thinner skins, in fact, may need little or no scraping). Cut the peel into strips or triangles or whatever shape you like.
Place the peel in a smaller (2-quart) saucepan with 1½ cups water and the sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Wash the syrup and sugar off the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush or a wad of wet paper towel.
Adjust the heat and simmer the peel uncovered, with little or no stirring, very gently until the syrup registers between 220° and 222°F and the peel has been translucent for a few minutes; this will take a little more or less than an hour.
Remove from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the peel to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, to catch the syrup drips. Spread the peel out in one layer and let cool and dry overnight.
Dredge the peel in sugar to coat. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the peel will keep for several months.
2007 Alice Medrich