I need to say this right upfront, if you like candied peel then don’t throw away your citrus peels, because making it is so easy! I’ve always felt that it was sort of wasteful not to use them, so when I was telling you about the grapefruit chicken, I mentioned how much I enjoy recipes like that that use all the juice and zest of a whole piece of fruit. Obviously though, there are many recipes that just don’t need both, often requiring just the juice, or in the case of salads, the sliced flesh. What then to do with all these leftover peels?
Well for quite a while, as in for a couple of years, I stuck them in an airtight container in the freezer with a vague sense of guilt, and the plan of doing something useful with them at some point in the future. I thought about making candied peel, or citrus vodka maybe, but most of the recipes seemed pretty complicated so the peel stayed in the freezer.
When I arrived home a couple of weeks ago with an esky full of oranges, grapefruit, lemons and mandarins from my parents, I decided that I really needed to clear out my stash before I started on doing something with my new pile of fruit.
So I defrosted, blanched and cooked my peel, and found firstly that the process was much easier than I had thought, and secondly that not only had languishing in the freezer not ruined my peel, but that it actually cooked more quickly and evenly than using fresh peel due to the peel being softened by the freezing. This is also one of those recipes that is not much more trouble to make in large batches than small, so it’s doubly worth stockpiling in the freezer to make a big batch later.
As you can see by the different colours, I made a mixed batch with lemons, limes, oranges, blood oranges and grapefruit, but you can certainly make individual types if you, for example, drink lots of freshly squeezed orange juice and have few other types of peel. I really encourage you to give it a try – it uses something that might otherwise go in the compost or bin, and tastes so much nicer than bought.
Oh, and I’ve popped that container back in the freezer with today’s orange peel, and I can’t wait until I have enough for my next batch!
Candied citrus peel
Adapted from a Tivoli Road Baker recipe
- as much citrus peel as you’ve managed to freeze over the last year (let’s say about 500g), in any combination of grapefruit, orange, blood orange, lemon and lime.
- 1kg white sugar (and more for coating if needed)
Defrost your frozen peel, or if you’re starting from scratch because you’ve just juiced a couple of kgs of oranges say, pop the peels in the freezer at least overnight. Don’t worry about any remaining membranes or flesh when freezing.
Once defrosted, use a spoon to scrape out any remaining flesh and fibres, leaving smooth white pith. Slice the peels into strips approximately ½ cm or so, noting that you could easily defrost and scrape one day, slice the next, and cook the next if you can’t spare the time all at once.
Put the slices in a big saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Drain the slices, return to the saucepan, and cover with water again. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until very tender, and drain again, reserving the cooking liquid.
Weigh the cooking liquid, and add back to the saucepan with an equal weight of sugar. Heat to dissolve the sugar, then add the peel and simmer until translucent, about 30-40 minutes again. Remove from heat and leave for 10 minutes.
Line two large baking trays with paper, and turn oven to lowest setting – preferably 60C. Scoop peel from syrup with a slotted spoon, and spread in a single layer over the trays. Put trays in the oven for another 45 minutes or so, until no longer wet to touch. Turn off the oven. Put the remaining sugar (from the 1kg) in a bowl. Toss handfuls of the peel in the sugar until coated, and return to the trays. Use extra sugar to finish the coating if you need to. Return trays to the cooling oven and leave overnight, or until dry.
Store in a jar at room temperature for up to 6 months. You can keep the left over cooking syrup in a jar in the fridge and add to drinks, use for glazing cakes, on pancakes, or even for another batch of peel!