20 December 2013
Candied white grapefruit peel
The other day I was super excited to find a big boxful of white grapefruit marked FREE in one of my neighbors' front yards. Backyard white grapefruit from someone's random tree! Very likely unsprayed, definitely unwaxed, off the tree for under 24 hours, beautiful and fragrant and abundant! I took four (leaving plenty behind for everyone else) and ran home to plot and plan.
Needless to say, I am totally enamored of white grapefruit. They're a lot more tart than the store standard ruby red, which means that freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice makes some truly superior cocktails. Grapefruit versions of mimosas and lemon drops? YES. So I knew I wanted the juice first and foremost. But I also took one look at the beautiful peels and decided it was time for my first foray into candied citrus.
I looked at the Joy of Cooking only to discover their recipe involved quite a lot of corn syrup. That's clearly not happening at our house. But fortunately, what popped up in my blog reader? The Tart Tart's candied citrus peel recipe!. Linda made some amazing-looking candied peel with no corn syrup in sight--just a plain simple syrup combination of sugar and water. Perfect. I broke out my knife and got to work.
As you might imagine, you don't have to stick with white grapefruit. Ruby reds, various oranges and tangerines, lemons, and limes should all produce different tasty candied peels. Hooray!
Candied white grapefruit peel
Adapted from the Tart Tart's candied citrus peel.
3 white grapefruits
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
additional water to blanch
additional sugar to coat
Start by scrubbing and peeling your grapefruit. I made mine by slicing off the top and bottom of each fruit, putting it down on its flat surface, and cutting several vertical slices of peel as I worked my way around the circumference. Then I cut each peeled fruit in half, squeezed out the juice, and reserved it for later.
While this peeling method worked well, it also produced thick slices of peel with a lot of bitter pith attached. I might try using a standard vegetable peeler for future endeavors, since those catch much less pith.
Cut your peels into narrow strips approximately half an inch wide, or into your choice of shape. Put them into a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring the pan to a boil, and then turn off the heat and drain off the hot water. Cover with cold water again and repeat this blanching step. Then repeat it one more time. Your peels should be soft and flexible and a bit squishy to the touch.
Give your peels a few minutes to cool before using a small paring knife or a spoon to cut or scrape off as much white pith as you can. Go to town with this, since pith is bitter and yet you want a reasonably sweet finished peel. Be gentle but thorough, since it can be easy to tear the softened peels. Also? If you are tall, you'll want to stand at a reasonably high counter, since otherwise I guarantee you will end up working at a super uncomfortable angle. Actually, make sure you have a good work surface no matter how tall you are. I just personally have the tall-person-at-a-short-counter experience.
We're ready to candy our peels! Start by heating an equal amount of sugar and water in your saucepan, swirling gently until the sugar has dissolved. I used 2 cups apiece, but if you're making a larger or smaller batch of peel you'll want to adjust accordingly.
When your sugar has dissolved, add your prepared peels. Bring the whole business to a slow simmer and cook until your peels are translucent and your syrup has thickened slightly. This took me something like an hour and fifteen minutes, but you'll want to start checking after half an hour or so, since the time depends on the thickness of your peels.
Spread your finished peels in one layer on a drying rack and let dry for about two hours. You'll probably want to put the rack over a cutting board or something similar to catch any sugary drips.
Finish your candied peels by tossing them to coat in a bowl of granulated sugar. Put them back on the rack (rinsed and dried, if it was totally sticky) to dry out for several more hours or overnight. Voila: a beautiful array of candied grapefruit peels!
And then? You can dip them in melted chocolate, chill them, and give them away to all your friends. Or chop them into little bits and bake them into cookies. Or arrange them in a pattern across the top of a glazed citrusy cake. Or just put a little dish out along with the rest of your holiday sweet spread and let everyone go to town.
Keep those holiday treats coming! What are you making with your fresh winter citrus?