Lately I've been on a "use the whole lemon" kick. I know! It sounds crazy, right? Eating the skin of a lemon, or an orange or a grapefruit for that matter, sounds more like a punishment than a treat, right? But seriously, I was so wrong. Using the whole fruit is very, very good. I've got so many places to go with this, and I'm going to be blogging about it over the next couple of weeks as soon as I am done tinkering with the recipes, but for now let me just say that using a whole citrus fruit is absolutely brilliant. Whoever thought that up deserves a big hot kiss from Clive Owen ::swoon:: Unless, I guess, that person is also a man, and doesn't swing that way. In which case, Jessica Alba. Ok, still not interested? Maybe just a lovely box of chocolates and a week in Paris. Unless you live there already, in which case I guess it's not exactly a reward. How did this get so complicated again?
Using the whole citrus fruit is like having little bits of zingy candy in every bite of your dish, and it makes a ho-hum-had-it-a-thousand-times dessert really sing with new life. Serve it, and your friends and family will be begging you for the recipe and throwing themselves at your feet as they worship you for the domestic goddess that you are. And all because you used a whole lemon. Really, after all that can you afford not to try?
So, after all that hoopla about using the whole lemon, I'm NOT going to use the whole lemon in this recipe. Wait, what? I know, aren't I mean? You'll just have to come back next time, because today we are talking about the part that doesn't usually get used: citrus rinds. You know, that stuff most people (sad, sorry ignorant people) usually toss? Well it's a shame so much of it ends up in the waste bin, because with a little bit of attention those rinds could be turned into something super tasty. From now on, whenever I use a piece of citrus that doesn't call for the whole fruit, I'm going to pop those rinds in the freezer to candy later.
Ok! Lets get started!
Candied Citrus Peel
I don't know why candying citrus peel sounds so scary. I know it took me ages to try it, but once I did I realized it was a piece of cake. Be prepared: It takes a while to do it right. It doesn't take a lot of actual hands on time, but there IS a lot of blanching, and the candies need to "rest" overnight. These are ideal to make while you are making something else (dinner maybe?) so give yourself some time and don't rush. making candy should be fun.
The ingredients for these are ridiculously simple. You need the following: water, white sugar, citrus. That's it! If you want to, you can also use a few drop of food coloring.
First, you need some citrus. I am using 6 blood oranges. If you want to use lemons, make it 8, if limes, make it 14 (those little buggers are small), if regular oranges make it 5, and if grapefruit make it 4.
the first thing you want to do is wash your oranges, and cut off the little nubby tops.
Now cut your oranges into quarters. Wow, aren't blood oranges spectacular?
Now we are going to "supreme" the oranges (sort of). This is fancy for "cut out the flesh of the oranges." It's pretty easy. Just do it like this:
There might be a little flesh left in the skin (does anyone else feel like this is a little graphic sounding for a candy recipe? flesh, skin? blood oranges? I'm just saying...) So if there is, scrape it out with a spoon. And don't throw that stuff away - save it something else. I'm making mine into marmalade!
Now you should have some clean skins. Repeat, until all your oranges are done.
Once all your oranges are skinned, slice them lengthwise into strips about 1/3".
Now get a stock pot and put those babies in.
Fill the pot with cold water until the rinds are covered by 1" of water. Why are we doing this? Good question! The white part of the orange is very bitter and not too tasty. Some people just cut it out before candying, but then you have very wimpy peels that fall apart easily. We don't want wimpy peels, so we are going to be soaking the rinds in water and then blanching them to remove that bitter taste.
Let the rinds sit in the cold water for 1 hour. Then, drain them in a colander.
Now for the blanching. Fill the pot up with cold water again, until the rinds are covered with 1" of water. Now bring the water to a boil, and boil those rinds for 20 minutes. Why are we doing this? Well this blanching helps get rid of the bitter taste of the white pith. If we didn't do this, our candy would probably be inedible, and that would be sad. The blanching is really key to getting a great candy.
Once the candy has been blanched for 20 minutes, drain it in a colander again. OMG? Where did all the color go? My peels have certainly lightened up a bit.
Now repeat the blanching TWO MORE TIMES. Yep, that's right, I said TWO MORE TIMES. Dude! That's a lot of blanching. But it's necessary. Don't skip. You'll be sorry.
Ok, all done now? Let those rinds just sit in the colander, while we make the syrup. You will need 3 cups of water and 3 cups of white sugar. We are going to be making sugar syrup. Mix those two together in the stock pot. You may also want to use some food coloring. I used two drops of red, one drop of yellow, and one drop of pink. But you can do whatever you want. I think pink limes would look weird anyway.
Now bring the sugar-water to a boil. At was at this point I discovered my candy thermometer was broken (At sea level water DOES boil at 212 degrees, not 175, correct?). I think this just goes to show that you can, indeed, candy stuff without a candy thermometer. But it would be a lot easier with one. If you have one, boil it until it reaches 220 degrees. If you don't, boil it for about 25 minutes.
Now add the peels to the syrup. Mmm. so pretty. Remember all that blanching we did? Well it opened up the pores of the lemon skin (seriously, I feel like I'm talking about facials, not candy), so that all that syruppy goodness can be absorbed. Aren't you glad we did it now?
Put the peels and the syrup back on the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat (we don't want the syrup to thicken up just yet), and simmer the peels in the syrup for 45 minutes, until they start to look translucent. Here's mine after its 45 minutes simmer:
Now for the boring part. Let peel cool, and leave it alone overnight on the stove, uncovered. Don't mess with it, just leave it alone. Come back tomorrow, peel needs a good long time to soak up that all that sweet goodness.
Get some draining apparatus ready. I think a wire rack with parchment paper underneath it works great. If you don't have one, just put down some parchment paper.
Reheat the peel, and bring it back to a boil. Using your candy thermometer, boil the syrup until it reaches 228 degrees. Unless, of course, your thermometer is broken in which case you are going to heat the peel to the "soft ball" stage. How do you tell if the sugar is at the "soft ball" stage? Well, take a spoon and put a little drop of syrup into a bowl of ice-water. It's done when it forms a soft little ball. It's over-done if it forms a hard little ball, It's not done yet if it just turns into liquid and mixes with the water.
Once the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, turn off the heat, and strain the peel out of the syrup (most of the syrup may have been absorbed by the peel though). Drain on a wire rack. I think mine look a little bit like french fries.
Let the candies dry for 1 hour. The will begin to harden, and won't be so sticky. Now roll those babies in sugar. Voila! You are done! Candied citrus peel. Lots of steps, but quite a bit easier than you thought, wasn't it?
Now put those is a pretty jar and serve them on top of blood orange sorbet, or, you know, just gobble them up plain. It's really up to you.