Making candied citrus peels from the rinds of oranges, lemons and grapefruit is easy. It just takes a little time.
ONE OF THE best things about winter is citrus. Cara cara oranges, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, tangerines, pomelos, ruby red grapefruit. The fruit is so delicious, why waste any part? This season, I vowed to eat the peels — by candying them.
Often imported from France or Italy, candied orange and lemon peel is eaten as a special treat or used in baked goods for zingy flavor. But it’s far cheaper to make it yourself, and the process is relatively straightforward: Cook peels in a sugar syrup, then air-dry them. It just takes time.
Homemade citrus peel is great to have in your pantry for tossing into breads, cakes, muffins and cookies. The bright strips also make attractive gifts in clear plastic bags or glass jars. Whether eaten as a sweet treat or used as an ingredient, they definitely brighten up a winter’s day.
For a tutorial in candied citrus peel, I turned to Karra Wise, the pastry chef at Columbia City Bakery. The bakery relies on house-made orange and lemon peel for its popular pan forte, stollen and panettone. Wise makes a big batch of candied peel several times a year, simmering squares of orange or lemon rind in sugar until soft and translucent. She recommends choosing organic fruit with thick peels, such as navel oranges, and boiling the rind twice before candying to remove bitterness.
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When I made these at home, I learned three key things:
• It’s OK if the temperature doesn’t reach 230 degrees as long as the syrup is thick and the peel is translucent.
• Scraping the pith off every strip is tedious and should be considered optional, depending on the particular citrus you use.
• It’s hard to let them dry before your husband and children eat them all. These were such a hit, I might never throw peels in the compost again.
While this recipe is for oranges, you can follow the same process for lemon or grapefruit peel. Just make sure to grab whatever citrus is in season, and stash away some of the fabulous peels.
Candied Orange Peels
3 small organic oranges, washed
2 cups water
2 cups sugar, plus a tablespoon or two for tossing
1. Cut ends off oranges, and cut oranges in quarters. Carefully remove peels from the quarters. Reserve oranges for another use.
2. Lay peels flat, and slice into strips about ¼-inch wide.
3. Bring a pot of water to boil, and boil the peels for two minutes. Do not overboil, or the rind could fall apart. Drain and rinse the peels. Refill the pot with fresh water, and repeat. Drain and cool.
4. If using citrus with thick, stringy rind, gently scrape each strip with a paring knife to remove the messy white pith. Otherwise, skip this step.
5. In a wide saucepan or skillet, bring 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to a boil until dissolved. Add rind, and gently simmer 30 to 40 minutes, until the sugar is thick and orange strips are soft and translucent. (If using a candy thermometer, temperature should be about 230 degrees.)
6. Drain rind, and spread on a baking sheet or screen to dry. (Save syrup in the refrigerator for cocktails, sodas or tea.)
7. After several hours, toss strips with sugar and continue to dry overnight. Store in an airtight container for up to two months.
Karra Wise, Columbia City Bakery