The Saturday Paper
I know I’m courting controversy and might even lose some of you immediately with the next statement, but here we go. Candied peel is absolutely delicious.
I can hear the howls of horror in my head. I’ve come to conclude that it must be one of the pantry’s most divisive common ingredients. At Christmas, people want fruit mince tarts sans peel. At Easter they want hot cross buns sans peel. A lot of people really, really seem to dislike it. But have they tasted handmade, seasonally produced peel, or have they only ever come across the nasty supermarket packet version?
Candying fruit has a long and proud European tradition. The Italians are stars at it, as are the French. They don’t stop at candying the peel from a few pieces of citrus, they preserve whole fruits as shimmering versions of themselves that last far longer than the original, corruptible specimen.
Winter is the perfect time to head into the kitchen, throw caution to the wind and see if it really is as detestable as many people make out. Citrus fruits are at their absolute best at this time of year. Blood oranges, navel oranges, grapefruits and lemons are all providing much needed colour and vitamin C as the winter, and head cold season, drags on and on. And there is nothing better, in my mind, than spending cold winter days tucked in a warm kitchen making beautiful things.
The process is very simple: cut the peel from the fruit, blanch it many times to remove the bitterness, cook in a sugar syrup until translucent and then dry. The peel can then be kept as such, or tossed in sugar. It can also be dipped in dark chocolate to make a delicious gift. The recipe below gives instructions on making mixed peel. But the primary reason for the recipe – what you do with the flesh of the fruit – is not discussed. I might cut slices or segment the fruits for a citrus salad or to use in a dessert. If you are somebody who squeezes a lot of citrus for juice, there is another method I have had a great deal of success with, albeit giving a more jelly, lolly-like result. Instead of peeling the fruit, take the juiced fruit halves and place them in a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Repeat this five times then drain and cool. When the fruit is cool enough to handle, scrape all the membrane and some of the pith out with a metal spoon. Cut the fruit into strips. Make a sugar syrup from two parts sugar to one part water, bring to boil and add the fruit. Because the fruit strips are thicker you may need to boil this version for an hour or so until the fruit is translucent. Then proceed with the drying and coating instructions below. Doing it this way means you get to use your juice skins, minimising waste.
Once made it can be added to scones, cakes, festive treats, cannoli, ice-cream, the list goes on and on.
And I’ll say it just once more. Candied peel is
• absolutely delicious.