Candied Peel

Candied or Crystallized Peel
ingredient veg vegan
Home-made candied peel has a lot more flavour than that shop-bought nonsense, plus it gives you something to do with the family to fill up those empty boring days before Christmas, right?

I made my batch using a grapefruit, two oranges, two limes and two lemons, but you could use whatever combination you like. I think a mixture of two cups of water and two cups of sugar was enough to cover the peels and (with a few additions of extra water along the way) reduce to a thick syrup with little left when the peels were done.

Considering I only needed an ounce and a half for my Christmas mincemeat I ended up with an enormous amount of peel, probably a half pound. So once they're dried you'll need to find something to do with all your peels - shouldn't be too hard - they're pretty addictive for snacking on once you get going.

Makes a surprisingly large amount

Using a nice sharp knife cut the peel from the citrus fruits taking all the peel and pith, but as little of the fruit flesh as possible. Now you need to boil the skins until soft in several changes of water to soften the peel and leech away all the bitterness from the pith:

Put the peel in a large pot of cold water, bring it to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Do this three or four times until the pith doesn't taste bitter any more, and the peel is soft but not disintegrating.
It would be best to do this for each type of fruit in a separate pan, or to add the fruit at different stages of the boiling process according to its hardness.
I found that limes took the longest to soften, followed by orange, then lemon, then grapefruit.

Once the skins are nice and soft, carefully cut away any fruit flesh and trim excess pith away from the peel so you get reasonably fat tidy skins, then cut into strips about ¼" wide.
Despite many recipes suggesting just using the peel with no pith attached: I think you'll end up with nothing except tough, leathery candy at the end.

Add to a large pot equal volumes of sugar and water or up to twice the volume of sugar to water to cover the peel and bring it to the boil.
When all the sugar has dissolved add the peels and simmer gently until they become translucent and the syrup has thickened or has been absorbed by the peels. This might take 45 minutes, or it might take hours.
Add more water if the pan dries out before the peels are ready.
Taste samples to check their consistency as you go but careful - they'll be hot!

When the peels are soft, translucent and nicely candied, lay them out on a rack to dry for an hour, then roll them in a generous amount of caster sugar in a large bowl to completely cover.
Lay them out to dry again for a day or so before packing them away.
The grapefruit seemed crystallize the most successfully, the orange peel was a bit tough, and the lime positively hard. Probably they could have done with more boiling.
I did wonder if it made any difference if the fruit is waxed - I found waxless lemons, but that didn't seem to be an option for the othere fruit.
To be honest I wasn't entirely happy - when they weren't a bit hard I thought my peels were still slightly bitter, but Flora liked them enough to take a massive box home. So they can't have been too bad!