I started my lovely dinner at Lola with a pear martini garnished with crystallized ginger. This led to a conversation with Dr. Marc about our shared love for candied citrus peel – a perfect sweet and tart with a touch of bitter combo. After I got home, I decided to try my hand at making some, since I had a crate of oranges for the Chinese New Year. Unlike most candy recipes, this doesn’t rely on precise temperatures; so it’s easy in that respect. But it does require blanching the peels 3 times, before an hour of simmering in a sugar syrup. If you add to that the fussy prep work (if you don’t remove the pith carefully, the candy will be extremely bitter), it’s a very time consuming process. I think it took me 3 hours in total.
I would also recommend blotting the peels dry carefully; if they are too wet it will clump the sugar. I also used 4 oranges and 2 lemons in half the amount of syrup, and it could have easily candied twice as much.The candied peels are addictive. I can’t walk by the bowl without grabbing a strip to nibble on.
2 grapefruits, 3 oranges, or 4 lemons
4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
4 cups water
Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of each citrus fruit, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.
Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain.
Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Stop stirring. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from heat, and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)
Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for at least 30 minutes.