Sugar rush’Tis the season for sweet treats, from sugarplums to sugar cookies. But this year, consider rethinking the source of your sugar rush and try the age-old practice of candying fruit. Now, before you run screaming, visions of horrific fruitcake dancing in your head, let’s be clear that we are not talking about the gummy, saccharine stuff found in plastic tubs. No, we’re talking about the infinitely better homemade version, specifically candied fruit peel.
While the flesh of a fruit can be candied, preserving citrus peel is elegant, quick, and refreshingly sweet and tart – particularly after a heavy holiday meal. Any citrus rind will work, but I have a special fondness for the candied grapefruit rind that my great-aunt made every Christmas.
The colorful exterior of the citrus rind has the essential oils that provide great flavor, but the underlying white pith is quite bitter. So in order to make candied rind, it is essential to remove the inherent bitterness in the pith by boiling the rind multiple times. Prepare the fruit by cutting it into halves or quarters and then scraping out the juicy flesh, removing as much pith as possible too. Then cut the citrus shells into thin strips. Place them in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Repeat two more times. The unpleasant bitterness leaches out into the water.
It’s then time to candy the peels. It’s a simple process: Just boil the rinds in simple syrup until they are softened and have absorbed the sugar. Be sure to add corn syrup to the sugar and water in the pot in order to prevent crystallization. After candying, roll the wet rinds in yet more granulated sugar so that the pieces can be separated and are not sticky. (Just like M&Ms, the candy should melt in the mouth, not stick to the fingers.) One caveat: Melted sugar is very hot; be careful not to get splatters of the hot sugar on your skin.
To make the candied citrus peels extra-special, dip them in melted chocolate. Orange and lemon rinds are especially good matches with a bittersweet chocolate. Candied rinds can be served on their own, as a garnish on cakes and ice cream, or as a dipper for fondue.
Candied peels will keep for a month in a sealed container stored in a dry place. Well, until word gets out that you’ve made them.
Anne Cori, a certified culinary professional, has taught cooking classes for more than 15 years at Kitchen Conservatory.
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