Candied Peel

Candied Peel

Wotchers!

A pet peeve of mine (don’t get me started on the others, because there are many!) is when I’m reading an enticing food idea or recipe that makes a useful/practical/tasty suggestion – and then completely fails to tell you any further details. A favourite example (where favourite = sends me into a teeth-gnashing froth of outrage) would be the suggestion for leftover roast chicken, which ‘helpfully’ suggests using it as a basis for other meals – and then leaves it at that.

Erm, hello? Exqueeze me? *taptap* WHAT other meals? Just HOW do you expect me to use it??

You can almost see the airy, vague wave of the hand.

So when I started this blog, I decided that I would never suggest any additional items to an ingredients list without having previously including at least one recipe. It’s not something that has featured heavily in the recipe selections here yet, so it might have gone unnoticed, but an example would be the Pulled Pork Sandwich. I made the serving suggestion of including Barbecue Sauce and Coleslaw – and serving it in a Tiger Bread Roll – recipes which could be found on the blog.

All of which is a long and rambling preamble as to why this recipe is going up today. This week I happened to mention on Twitter that I had made some fat-free mincemeat with no added sugar, wondering if anyone would be interested. From the responses, people certainly were interested, so with the festive season approaching, a post about sugar-free, fat-free mincemeat should be popular.

‘Still not explaining the candied peel recipe’ I hear you mutter. So here’s the thing. The mincemeat recipe I put together uses home-made candied peel. ‘Whaaaaaaaat?? But I can buy that!’ you shriek. Yes, I know. But if you’ve ever tasted fresh candied peel made with nothing more than sugar, peel and water – you’d understand. I used to hate store-bought candied peel, and avoided anything that included it, but home-made just blows it out of the water. The explosion of citrus flavour is amazing. The beauty of making it yourself is that you can candy any citrus peel you like, and not be limited to just orange and lemon. So here, for anyone who fancies having a go, is how to do it. It’s not difficult or complicated, but it is a bit repetitive. But make a decent amount at one time, and you won’t have to repeat it for a good few months. Oh – and it’ll make your house smell amazing.

How To Candy Peel

Citrus fruit of choice
Sugar
Water

  • Remove the skin from the fruit. Slice off the top and bottom (to make a flat surface to stand the fruit on) and then cut the peel from the  sides of the fruit by slicing downwards. Keep as much of the pith as possible.
  • Scrape any flesh and membranes from the fruit rind. Don’t worry if you can’t get it all, it’ll become easier after the peel has been boiled. Leave the pith intact – it’s the pith absorbing the sugar that keeps the rind juicy and helps prevent it becoming hard.
  • Place the rind into a pan large enough to hold it plus an inch of water. Cover with clean water.
  • Bring water to a boil and boil for a minute or two then drain. Rinse the peel thoroughly, and also scrub the sides of the saucepan thoroughly as well. Why? The bitterness of the peel comes from the citrus oil in the skin of the fruit. Bringing the water to the boil helps release this oil, but it then floats on the top of the water, coats the rind when the water is poured off, and also congeals onto the sides of the pan. If you don’t rinse the peel and scrub the pan well, you just end up basically boiling the peel in the bitter citrus oil, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of repeated boilings.
  • Repeat until the peels are semi translucent and very tender. This will greatly depend on the type and condition of the fruit itself, but as a rough guide, lemons = 4 times, oranges = 5 times, grapefruit = 6 times.
  • Leave in a colander to drain well.
  • While the peel is draining, make some sugar syrup: mix 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. 500ml water to 1kg sugar is straightforward, but might leave you with a lot of leftovers, if you’re not making much peel. Not very helpful I’m afraid, but to my mind, it is better to have a little extra syrup, than have to make more once you’ve added the peels because there isn’t enough. I usually guesstimate by eye – and use non-standard measures (i.e. large mug or jug) and just measure by volume.
  • Heat the sugar and water slowly until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil and continue to heat until the mixture is clear.
  • Squeeze excess water from the peels by pressing them between several layers of kitchen roll – or I find that using a clean hand towel works best – they’re surprisingly soggy peels!
  • Scrape off any remaining flesh and membranes using the side of a teaspoon and cut the peels into 5mm strips. [1]
  • Once the syrup is clear, drop in the drained peel. Make sure that there is enough syrup to allow all of the rinds to be submerged.
  • Bring syrup and rind to a boil then cover and put onto the lowest heat. Let it stew gently until the rinds become translucent and jewel-like (almost like coloured glass). Stir occasionally. This takes about an hour. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed things along, it’ll just harden the peel.
  • Store the candied peel in screw-top jars, making sure it’s completely covered by the syrup. This will keep it moist until required, and the high sugar content of the syrup will act as a preservative. When you need to use it in a recipe, rinse off the excess syrup and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Any excess syrup can be bottled and saved to drizzle over cakes or desserts. It will have a wonderful flavour.

[1] Since taking the photo to go with this post, I have tweaked the recipe instructions in order to make the candied peel easier to make, store and use. You can of course, keep the peels in large pieces if you prefer. Testing whether the fruit is tender is trickier with larger pieces of peel, so why not try this tip I picked up from an 18th century cook book: the peel is soft enough when the stem of a clove can easily be pushed through it.