30 November 2011 by
There’s no comparison between store bought peel and home candied. The former is skinny and skimpy. The latter, fat and sumptuous. Plus that if you use organic fruits and sugar, you wind up with pretty decent delicacies instead of weird madness.
All that and this is the stuff of a thrifty cook. No tossing these lovely peels to the compost. Making use of them to add oodles of flavor to your holiday cakes. Who knows, it could even lead to drying our peels to add them to tea come winter. Constant Comment did it to very good advantage way back when…and now they’re rich kids–chuckle.
This year I candied one of each critter: lemon, orange, grapefruit, citron, and lime. Lemon and orange were quite good as was the grapefruit. Citron was hard to find but it rewarded with an extra thick pith. Lime with its thin peel was not as plump and enticing, although still brought an intrigue all its own.
You can see how large the citron is and how little fruit it has, making it a shoe-in for candying with its thick rind. This is the etrog variety as opposed to the more readily available fingered citron, also known as Buddha’s hand. The advantage of the fingered citron is that its all rind and thus gives up a goodly amount of candied peel.
Just ask friend, Michael Mock, who experimented with that this year. He ended up with a couple of cups of diced peel, plenty for not only fruitcakes but also Christmas Stollen and my latest use of candied peel: in a beet salad with fresh oranges, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a healthy spike of country mustard.
Back to the matter at hand, though. The gist on candied peel is really just the same as on everything else that’s commercially prepared today. Making it is easy, but it is yet another chore. That said, as people who do their own chores know, there’s nothing like home made for both satisfaction and end product.
How easy? How about 1, 2, 3.
1. Take the peel off the fruit (or in the case of etrog citron, cut the fruit out of the peel) and dice it–or at least get a bite-size cut. No need to fret over removing the pith as you want that for meaty dices and the bitterness goes mostly gonzo during the blanching. (Besides, like Old Fashion drinkers know, a little bitter makes the sweet rock & roll.)
2. Blanch in boiling water a couple times. Draining and rinsing each time to remove the bitterness. (Some recipes call for three and four times of blanching. I did it twice, letting the peels bubble about for a minute or two each time before rinsing.)
3. Simmer with sugar and water (one part sugar to two parts water) until things get syrupy. Use enough water to barely cover your fruits nets about the right amount of syrup.
If you’ll notice in the last image here, some of my jars have less syrup than others–point being there’s no hard and fast rule, just you experimenting.
Just you, the measure free hippie cook, in charge. (How was it that we ever turned into technicians anyhow? Following orders from headquarters in the privacy of our own kitchens? Aren’t our lives ruled and regulated enough already? More chuckle…)
Our cover girl, Celeste, is never far from the kitchen action of course. She is even in the holiday spirit enough to let the latest member of the family–Blue Bird–to share the frame with her.