I must warn you. This isn’t quite what we would call a local recipe.
I’ll be honest, I debated whether we should actually post this or not. But, we’ve always said that we have our exceptions. And while we don’t often purchase citrus, occasionally, we do find we need it for a recipe.
And occasionally, that recipe calls for candied citrus peel.
There’s a grocery store down the street, let’s not name names and just say the name of it rhymes with Hole Feuds, that sells candied citrus peel at $50 a pound.
Here is where we balance green and.. well. Green.
You generally don’t use a lot of candied citrus peel, so, theoretically, if a citrus region were to harvest fruit, candy the peel and ship it, it would be cheaper to ship that peel that it would be to ship the whole fruit. For instance, when I made this recipe, I made almost three quarters of a pound of citrus peel out of roughly four pounds of fruit.
Economically, it was smart. That was around $40 worth. Ecologically, not as much. Easier to ship the 3/4lb than 4lb. But, if you needed to use fresh orange or lemon juice, and not the zest, then you would have just been throwing out the peels anyways (unless you’re crafty and drying them for potpourri or any of the myriad uses for citrus peel). And then there’s the question of how little candied citrus peel can you make at once? The recipe I used below technically is supposed to make a pound of the stuff, and it only really lasts for a month (if you can resist snacking on it), but it uses ten lemons (or six oranges).
Needless to say, the ability to over-analyze this is easy. We used almost all the fruit, either as juice or just eating, that we needed to make the citrus peel, so we definitely strove to make sure that we weren’t being outright wasteful.
And that is the key to this. You make candied citrus peel because you need it in a different recipe (like, say, the panforte which calls for over a cup of the stuff). Then you do a little thinking and figure out what to make with the orange and lemon juice. Or, you have a recipe that needs a good amount of orange juice, or you have relatives coming over who require oranges to eat, and then you take the peels and make candied citrus peel to snack on.
And that, in the end, is why we’re posting this. The goal is to be sure to use the whole beast, as it were. If you’re going to have to do something non-local (hey, all you readers who live in citrus growing regions? You can ignore this part), just don’t waste the sacrifice.
If it helps you save a little money at the same time, all the better.
- Oranges, 6 OR Lemons, 10 OR some mix of the two
- Sugar, 6 cups + 1 cup
- Lemon Juice, 1 tsp
- Cut the fruit in half lengthwise and then quarter the halves.
- Carefully remove and reserve the fruit for whatever purposes you plan on using them for. You want to try to keep the peel as untorn as possible.
- Even more carefully, remove the pith from the peel. The book recommends a spoon. I tore one peel horribly before switching to an extremely sharp boning knife. I’ll talk about that a little bit more down in the notes.
- Cut the peels into strips, about a quarter inch wide, give or take.
- Once everything has been cut into strips, bring some water to a simmer and blanch the peels for 40 minutes.
- At the end of the blanching, give them a quick ice water bath (shouting Mazel Tov! is optional) and then lay them out on a paper towel and blot them dry.
- Empty the pot you used to blanch the strips and refill it with fresh water, around 6 cups, 6 cups of sugar and the lemon juice. OR use a deeper pot. You want a deep pot for this.
- Let the pan sit on medium heat, with occasional stirs, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Raise the heat to high and bring it to a boil, watching carefully, since sugar water does have a tendency to climb up the pot.
- Add a candy thermometer and keep it going until the temperature hits 200F.
- Add the peels and continue to boil for 40 minutes, at which point just remove the pan from the heat and do nothing else with the pot for 8 hours (or overnight, if you’re a good sleeper). Well, ok, you could cover it.
- Get that pot back up to a boil and get it up to 226F. Keep an eye on it, for the aforementioned boil over. Give it a good, gentle stir to calm it down if things look to be getting out of hand.
- Once it hits 226F, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 8 hours again.
- Get that pot back up to a boil, again, and get it up to 230F. Once it hits it, it is time for another 8 hour rest. But it is the last one…
- Heat the pot back up until the syrup liquefies and fish out the peels with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a cooling rack. You want them to dry out, but remain tacky. It could take 8 hours. It could take longer. It could take less (was only 3 hours for us).
- After you’ve transferred the peels to a cooling rack, be sure to transfer that syrup into a mason jar. It is a delicious, fruity, honey tasting syrup that you could easily use for pancakes or cocktails or anyplace that calls for simple syrup. It would likely keep for a month, at least, in the fridge.
- Once the peels are dry/tacky, spread out the extra cup of sugar in a plate (you may want to only do a quarter of a cup at a time).
- Dredge the peels in the sugar and let them dry a little longer. If you run low on sugar, add more. If the sugar begins to clump, either run it through a sieve, crush the lumps, or just move the clumps off to the side.
- Store the candied peels in an airtight container in a dark place and they should last for a month.
Chefs Notes: When we made this, we used 2 blood oranges, 3 navel (I think) and 2 lemons. I’d skip any thin skinned orange, like mandarins, at least until you’re comfortable removing the pith. The less there is, the harder it will be to remove, the more trouble you might have counting to ten when you’re done.
Technically, the instructions call for simply quartering the fruit, however I found it hard to remove the pith without losing too much rind. The ability to do that will likely come in time, but, for the first attempt, I’d recommend eights. Or heck, try one quartered and see what you can do. I never claimed to have the best knife skills.
Now, to remove the pith, I used a very sharp knife (and not a ceramic knife, as I think it might not take the pressure. With one hand, I’d hold the peel still, while I pressed the flat of the knife as hard as I could against the pith.
Slowly, I’d whittle away at the pith, giving the peel a spin, whittle away towards the next point, and repeating.. and repeating… and repeating, until the pith was removed.
It was, definitely, very tedious work. Be careful. It would be pretty easy to slice a fingertip off if you slip. I didn’t really time how long it took me all told to do those fruit. Don’t beat yourself up too much as you slice off useful rind. I lost a bit here and there as I worked my way through. Heck, you can see a little rind in the pile of discards.
I really have no idea how one would use a spoon to remove the pith. But, heck, the knife worked just fine.
Also, now you know why candied citrus peel does cost $50/lb. Time wise, this recipe is right around 36 hours worth of work and waiting.
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