Candied Citrus Peel
The Pleasures of Home-Made Candied Peel
Candied orange, grapefruit and lemon peels are wonderful treats. The candying process transforms their flavour and scent. Candied lemon peel develops intriguing spice notes.
Candied citrus peel can be used for a whole range of sweet treats. They are delicious eaten as they are. Roll thin slices of candied peel in sugar or dip in chocolate for an after-dinner treat. Add them to cakes and cookies.
The Italians are famous for candied citron, also known as cedro, which is used in cakes and cookies. The citron (Citrus medica) is grown specifically for its thick rind. Its flesh has little to commend it. However, it is difficult to find the tree in garden centres or nurseries. (I happened to be lucky that I managed to locate 2 trees over a decade ago. The candied cedro pictured here are made from fruits from these two trees. Recent attempts to buy additional trees - just in case my current ones die - have been unsuccessful.)
The key issue I have with commercial candied peel is the smell and taste of the preservative E220 which is sulphur dioxide (SO2). For whatever reason, this preservative has a very discernible effect on the scent and flavour of the candied peel. Given that sugar is itself a natural preservative, the addition of this preservative strikes me as unnecessary. Read the small print to check if S02 or preservative E220 has been added if you are buying commercial candied peel.
There are 2 methods for making candied peel. Candied peel made by the quick method does not keep well but this method is very useful way to produce candied peel at short notice.
The slow method simulates the commercial process for candied fruit but without need for specialist equipment other than a sugar thermometer. The eating and keeping qualities using this slow method make it well worth the extra effort. As the saying goes, good things take time!
How To Prepare Lemon Peel As "Shells"
How to prepare citrus peel for candying
Juice the citrus as it is easier with work with citrus "shells". Cut the "shells" in half. Place each quarter on a chopping board and using a filleting knife, remove all the membranes so that you have peel and some white pith. If you wish, you can cut the quarters into thinner slices. [Note: You can work with "shells" but it is fiddlier to remove membrane from the shells as distinct from quarters.]
Put the peel in a large stock pot with cold water. (Use at least 1 litre of water for every 250g of peel.) Bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and repeat the process. The peel should be tender. If it is not, repeat the process and cook for longer period until the peel is tender.
Quick Method for making candied peel
250 g fresh peel
250 g sugar
600 ml water
3 tbp liquid glucose
Prepare the peel as described.
In a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat, dissolve the sugar and liquid glucose in the water. When the syrup is simmering, add the drained peel. Simmer the peel in the syrup until there is only a small amount (around 125 ml) of syrup remaining and the peel is shiny and translucent. Care needs to be taken towards the end of the process to prevent burning: stir frequently and lower the heat.
Drain the peel in a colander. Spread in single layers on wire racks. Leave the peel to dry in a cool airy place until the peel is firm and only slightly sticky. If you have a food dehydrator, spread the peel in single layers on the racks and dry at the lowest temperature setting overnight until the peel is firm and only slightly sticky.
Store the candied peel in an airtight container if not using immediately.
Slow ("Proper") Method for making candied peel
1 kg fresh peel, prepared for candying
900 g granulated sugar
180 g liquid glucose (1st addition)
370 g liquid glucose (2nd addition)
1 litre water
Prepare the peel.
In a large stock pot over moderate heat, make a syrup with water, sugar and 180 g liquid glucose. Bring to the boil and add prepared peel. Bring the syrup back to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and gently simmer covered cook for 10 minutes. Leave to stand one day, covered.
Remove the peel from the syrup using a slotted spoon or meshed skimmer and place in a colander set over a bowl. Bring the syrup to the boil and concentrate it by rapid boiling until it reduces to 1 litre. [Tip: An alternative to having to pour to syrup out of the pot to determine whether it has been reduced to 1 litre is to use a dry wooden chopstick as a 'water mark'. On Day 1 put a dry chopstick into the pot of water before you add the sugar and liquid glucose. Mark the chopstick at the point which equates to 1 litre of water in the pot. Use this 'water mark' to check whether your syrup has reduced to 1 litre on Day 2.]
Whilst the syrup is reducing, add any drained syrup collected in the bowl back to the pot. When the syrup has reduced to 1 litre, return the drained peel back to the syrup. Bring to the syrup back to the boil and leave to boil, uncovered, for 3 minutes.
Remove the peel from the syrup as per the instructions in Day 2. Stir in the 370 g liquid glucose and bring the syrup back to the boil. As in Day 2, add any drained syrup collected in the bowl back to the pot whilst it comes back to the boil. Boil the syrup until it reaches 103ºC. Return the peel to the syrup and boil, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. The syrup should be 103ºC during this cooking time. Set aside, covered, for a day.
Repeat the process of removing the peel from the syrup and bringing the syrup to the boil again. Once the syrup reaches 105ºC, add the peel and boil, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. The syrup should be at 105ºC during this cooking time. Set aside, covered, for 2 days.
Repeat the process of removing the peel from the syrup and bringing the syrup to the boil again. Add the peel and cook, uncovered, until the syrup reaches 107ºC. Set aside, covered, for 1 day.
Bring the syrup and peel to boiling point over moderate heat. Remove the peel from the boiling syrup to a large colander. Leave the peel to stand in the colander until it is thoroughly drained of syrup.
After the peel is thoroughly drained, spread it out to dry until the peel is no longer sticky and can be handled easily. The candied peel can be dried in a dehydrator at the lowest temperature setting. If you don't have a dehydrator, spread the peel onto wire racks or on greaseproof paper and leave to dry in a cool, airy place. You will need to turn the peel to ensure even drying. Drying time depends on the room temperature, humidity etc. Judge by look and feel.
Store the candied peel in single layers, separated with greaseproof paper, in air-tight containers.
Candied Lemon Peel: Tip For Using Leftover Lemon Juice
If you are making a large amount of candied lemon peel, one of the challenges is what to do with the juice?
You could just pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it. But an even better alternative is to turn the juice into a concentrate for use in cakes, cookies, tart fillings, ice creams etc. By using the concentrate, you can pack a really powerful lemon flavour without upsetting the liquid quantities in the recipe. I use this concentrate in the custard filling for Torta Della Nonna.
Here's what I did when I was preparing a large batch of candied lemon peel recently.
- Squeezed 16 lemons (about 3.4 kg). I had the strainer attachment for the juicer on to minimise the amount of pulp in the juice.
- Total amount of juice obtained: 1.2 litres. Total amount of peel: 1.39 kg
- Put the lemon juice have into shallow dishes (in this case, pie dishes) to allow maximum surface area to be exposed to accelerate dehydration.
- Placed the dishes into the dehydrator. I had to add 2 separator rings to the dehydrator - these are the rings that allow you to space the drying racks further apart when drying large items.
- Dehyrator set to 60°C. After about 6 hours, the juice had reduced by about a third.
- Dried juice will sticking on the sides of the containers as the juice reduces. Brush down the sides of the containers with cold water. Lower temperature to 45°C and left in dehydrator for another 12 hours.
- The juice is very concentrated (only 200ml remaining) and intensely sour by this stage. Packed into small plastic thimbles and put into freezer for later use.