I’d seen this recipe a number of times, and I’ve probably eaten my weight of candied orange peel more than once, but I was never inspired to make it myself until this year. Now, I’m sure I’ll be making it annually – it’s an easy recipe that doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time, and makes a gorgeous hostess or teacher gift. And with exactly two ingredients – citrus peel and sugar – it’s a handy alternative to baked goods for friends with food allergies or special diets.
What changed my mind about this recipe, you ask? I got a surprise gift in the mail from a family member – 15 pounds of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. No really, fifteen pounds, I weighed it. It arrived the day after I’d gone grocery shopping and bought five additional pounds of oranges. So you might say that Fate tossed this recipe into my lap.
Remember two years ago when we gave up cable, and I said I was going to watch all of Lost on Netflix? I watched a good portion of season two while peeling and slicing grapefruit peel. It probably wouldn’t have taken that long, except that I kept stopping to stare at the screen and yell, “Wait… another polar bear??? Seriously?!?!?!“ That will eat into your prep time, I tell ya.
Candied Citrus Peel
- several pounds of oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and/or limes
- granulated sugar – around six cups
There’s very little measuring in this process – we’ll talk about that towards the end. For now, wash the outside of your fruit carefully and dry it so it isn’t slippery.
Peel the fruit and cut the peel into strips, leaving a bit of white pith on the inside. The more pith you leave, the chewier the finished product will be, and the longer it will take to sugar – it’s tasty either way, I aim for the middle of the road. I tried a few different methods to peel the fruit. Cutting the oranges into eighths and then removing the fruit -
For the grapefruit, I sliced it into rings, then sliced the peel off from there. It was effective, but time-consuming – I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I was wrapped up in Lost. I admit it, I was worried about the dog.
However you end up getting your peel, slice them up so that all your pieces are about the same size – I aimed for 1/4″ wide and about 2″ long. Place them in a large pot of cold water (I used my soup pot) and heat them to boiling. Let the water boil for about five minutes, then drain them, discard the water, and repeat.
I boil mine three times – this step softens the peels and removes the bitterness. It also makes your house smell great. When you’ve finished the third pot of water, let the peels drain in a colander while you prepare the sugar syrup.
(Have I mentioned that the final three minutes of Season One of Lost is, quite possibly, THE BEST CLIFFHANGER EVER?!?!?!?! It makes me glad that I watched it on Netflix, since I didn’t have to wait an entire summer to see what happened next. I had to wait, oh, about a minute and a half.)
The ratio of sugar to water for this syrup is 3 parts sugar to 4 parts water. Stir the sugar into the water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. How much syrup you’ll need depends on the how much citrus peel you’ve prepared – I cut up 10 pounds of citrus and used 8 cups of water and 6 cups of sugar. If you start your syrup and realize it’s not enough, there’s no rule against making a second batch of syrup.
Simmer the peels in the sugar syrup until they are translucent and tender – i smoosh mine against the side of the pot with a fork and see if I can easily cut them in half. If I can, they’re ready. This can take from one to three hours, depending on the thickness of your pieces. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool/drain on a wire rack over newspaper. No rack? Laying them directly on waxed paper is fine too.When the peels have cooled a bit (but are still sticky), toss them into a bag with more sugar and give them a good shake. Pretend you’re throttling the guy at the Dharma Initiative who… okay, no spoilers then. Even though the plotline in question is several years old.
Lay your freshly sugared peels out to dry overnight, either on a baking rack or on fresh waxed paper. When they’re no longer sticky, put them in a cute container – either a saved and repurposed jar, or something fun like these favor jars I found, on sale at a craft store that I had a good coupon for. Save a handful for your next holiday party too – they’re a great garnish for desserts, or tossed into a fancy cocktail.