I've never made candy in part because it doesn't seem like cooking (science, magic perhaps?) and in part because I've never had much of a sweet tooth. I prefer bitter-sweet flavors like dark chocolate and citrus. So when I was perusing recipes to make for Christmas and found this candied citrus peel recipe, I was like, 'Heck ya.'
I made a single batch (not nearly enough!) for gifts. I liked them so much that I made a second batch for Paul and me to have with our nightly, after-dinner dose of dark chocolate. The bitter from the citrus combined with the sweetness of the sugar make these candied citrus peels irresistible.
I adapted the techniques of this recipe from Anita Chu's recipe in the October edition of Fine Cooking.
Candied Citrus Peels
3 cups citrus peel (from oranges, grapefruit, and lemons)
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom ½-inch off the fruit so it stands up on its own. Then, starting from the top of the fruit, move the knife down alongside the outer edge of the fruit to the bottom, cutting about a 1-inch wide slice of peel off the fruit. Continue around the fruit until you've sliced off all the orange peel. You should be left with about 6, 1-inch wide pieces of peel.
With a paring knife, fillet the remaining fruit and extra pith off the inside (white) portion of the peel or pull up the layer up with your fingers (the pith should peel off the rind like scotch tape from a cardboard box).
Turn the peel pith side down and slice the peel into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Save the fruit for another use, such as for an orange salad.
Put the sliced peels in a heavy-duty saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and blanch for 5 minutes.
Drain the peels, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and blanch again for 5 minutes. Repeat once more for a total of three blanchings.
In the same saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups of the sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the peels and reduce the heat to low. Let the peels simmer very gently until they begin to look translucent, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the peels candy evenly.
Using an Asian spider skimmer or slotted spoon, lift the peels from the liquid and place on metal rack placed over a baking sheet. Though not shown in this picture, it's best to line the baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up. Let the sugar drip off for about 10 minutes. Reserve the leftover syrup for another use, like cocktails.
Once the peels have drained, put the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a bowl. Roll the peels in the sugar, shake them in a sieve to remove any excess, and spread them on the rack. Let dry for 5 to 6 hours.
Once fully dry, store the candied peels in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, in a cool, dry place. Serve with dark chocolate and port or espresso early morning or late night.