Candying Citrus Peel For The Holidays

Citrus peel makes a great holiday dessert when candied.
Citrus peel makes a great holiday dessert when candied.

Sweet snacks are an important part of many families’ holiday traditions. This year, consider skipping the candy aisle during your shopping trip and making your own treats instead. If you’re learning to cook, you’ll find that candying citrus peel is surprisingly easy. However, it does require some advance planning. Whether you want to prepare candy as a homemade dessert for a holiday meal or creative stocking stuffer, try following these tips:

Fruits to candy
You might make a large batch of a single fruit or assemble a variety following the same basic methods. Either way, stick to produce that is especially plentiful and tasty in the season. The Latin Kitchen pointed out that cherries, blueberries, California apricots, cranberries and mango are all fantastic options for candying in the summer. During the winter months, through, citrus fruits are at their juiciest and sweetest, and orange, lemon or grapefruit peels are all delicious when candied.

Removing the pith
Begin by cutting the ends off the fruit and halving it lengthwise. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife and cut it into strips. Along with the peel will come the pith, the white, spongy layer between the peel and fruit. Over the the next few steps, you will set out out to thoroughly extract the pith and eliminate its bitter taste.

You will get rid of that flavor by blanching the peel, briefly immersing it in boiling water. Place the peel in a pot and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes and then drain. Epicurious suggested simmering for only 10 minutes but doing so three times to ensure that the pith’s flavor is gone. You can make this process quicker and easier by switching between two pots.

At this point, use a paring knife or melon baller to remove the pith. For grapefruit, which has more pith than other fruits, Popsugar recommended simmering for another 20 minutes and then scraping out any remnants. You may also want to cut your pieces of peel into thinner strips at this point.

Candying the peel
Now that you have taken out the bitterness, it is time to replace that flavor with sweetness. Make the syrup by first stirring together water and sugar in a saucepan. You will need two cups of sugar for every cup of water. Set the heat at medium and bring the water to a boil. Continue to stir until the sugar dissolves.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the strips of peel. Simmer until the syrup thickens and the strips become translucent. This can take about 40 minutes. In the meantime, use a brush dipped in cold water to wash down sugar crystals from the side of the pot.

Let the peels stand in the syrup at room temperature for at least a few hours or overnight. If you like and have the time, you can repeat the process of heating the syrup and allowing the strips to dry for additional flavor.

To add a coating of sugar, first drain any excess syrup from the strips using a colander or slotted spoon. Pour out sugar on a cutting board or plate. Then roll each piece of peel until it is well-covered and allow them to dry on piece of wax paper.

According to Serious Eats, candied peel will maintain its freshness for a month when refrigerated, so you can make your preparations well ahead of holiday gatherings. You may also want to hang onto any leftover syrup; get creative with finding another use for it in a sweet dessert or festive cocktail.

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