So a few years back my friend DB brought me a bag of delicious homemade candied orange peels as a birthday present. They were the perfect gift — sweet yet tart, chewy but still tender and dipped in chocolate because, why the hell not? They were also gone in about two days and I’ve longed for them ever since. So when he mentioned it might be a fun project for us to try out, I jumped at the chance. Given the holiday season, I figured whatever was leftover, I could certainly gift to some more-than-willing friends. That is, if there were any leftovers!
Since I had never made candied peels before, I was a little fuzzy on the details. I guess I was envisioning candied zest, which I had done a few times back in culinary school. It didn’t occur to me that the peels I had gotten as a gift were much larger and juicier than any zest could possibly be. So it was a good thing I had some guidance to keep me from going astray.
We decided to do peels the same day we did our pate de fruit, so it made sense to use grapefruit since we already needed some of the juice for the jellies. After slicing the fruit in half and juicing them, we began the tedious process of blanching. Luckily, we had plenty of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice to use in cocktails, which certainly helped take the edge off.
The first blanching is done with all the membrane intact. So place peels in large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Then drain the fruit and scrape the membrane out with a spoon — but don’t go too crazy. We still kept a decent amount of pith to ensure our peels would have a nice texture.
Repeat the blanching process at least three times. We should have done the grapefruit four times, but we didn’t know any better. Don’t be like us! They were still tasty but they definitely had a lingering bitterness. But, as my mother would say, it was nothing a little chocolate couldn’t fix. The orange peels that we did a week later though turned out fantastic and they only needed three blanchings to be perfect. Lesson learned — taste as you go.
Once the thrilling boiling/draining part is done, cut the peels into strips and put them back in the pot. Cover with simple syrup (basically a 1:2 sugar water mixture) and let them cook on a low simmer for about 45 minutes until they are translucent. This will give you more time to make some fun cocktails. Yay for fresh squeezed citrus! I like to think we were helping to prevent scurvy, which is very important. Scurvy is bad!
Now drain the peels one last time (but keep your now-infused simple syrup!) and lay them out on parchment, keeping the sticky strips from touching each other. Let them dry overnight — I put ours in my empty oven so they wouldn’t get a nice cat-hair coating. Then roll them in sugar and you’re done!
In you’re feeling frisky, melt some chocolate, dip the peels and then lay them back on the parchment until set. And if you’re really frisky (or just in need of sparkle in your life) dust them with some edible glitter or pretty sanding sugars.
And clearly, I was feeling very frisky!