Did you ever found yourself picking out the candied fruit from a slice of panettone or other fruitcake? I did when I was young, then I just avoided fruitcakes all together. I remember thinking: why anyone would ruin a cake with that plasticky orange and green bits?
Several years ago however, I happened to have too many oranges, too much marmalade, more than enough arancello, so I decided to become adventurous and investigate how to make candied orange peel. I was not convinced I would have loved it, but I planned to use it as decoration material for pannacotta and other desserts.
Luckily, I was in for a surprise: I could not believe my tastebuds, but homemade candied fruit is heaven!
My friend Diana calls my orange peel “the food crack”.
After this revelation, I have started to make candied orange every year in January as a special ingredient and for edible gifts. They keep for the whole year.
By the way, do you know what the green cubes are? most commercial diced candied fruit is actually candied squash and has no citrus in it. Authentic green candy should be made with citron, a large knobbly lemon-like fruit with a white rind named albedo.
The Italian citron is fragrant, has hardly any juice but the thick, white albedo has been used in confections for centuries. The now-fashionable Japanese Yuzu is also a citron.
Citron is not too easy to find in a shop, so if you happen to find some, don’t hesitate to buy and transform it into this precious ingredient. Note that my citrons are yellow but you might be lucky and find the beautiful green ones. You will be glad to have a few slices in your larder.
The method in this post is different from the one I use for orange peels. The citron peels are boiled in syrup several times with a resting period in between. While resting, the peels absorb most of the sugar in the syrup which will preserve them for a long time.
- 12 citrons
- 8 cups/1.8 kg sugar
Halve the citron and remove the albedo with a spoon. Reserve the flesh for another use. Place the peels in a large pot and cover with room-temperature water. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. Drain. Return peels to pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, cook 3 minutes, and drain. Repeat once more. Leave the peels in a colander until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
Slice the peels into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide strips and transfer in a large shallow pan. Sprinkle with 6 cups/1.350 kg sugar, cover with water. You will need approximately 2 quart/2 litres.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 min.
Cover the pan and let the peel rest for several hours to 24 hours, depending on when you have time to take care of the next step. Don’t let the peels soak for more than 24 hours as they might start fermenting in which case you will have to discard them.
After resting, bring the peels to the boil again for 5 minutes. Repeat the boiling and resting 2-3 more times until peels are tender and translucent. Don’t let the sugar brown or caramelize.
After boiling for the last time, drain the peels with a slotted spoon and transfer them into a colander placed over a bowl to dry.
Spread them on a tray lined with parchment paper and toss them with enough sugar to coat every slice, 1/2 cup to 1 cup. Let them dry 1 day.
The next day the peels should look soft but dry. If they are still sticky, toss them with more sugar (1/2 cup to 1 cup) and let them dry one or two more days.
At this point the peel should still be soft and can be packed for gifts. it will last about a month but be aware that if it’s too moist it will eventually mould.
If you wish them to keep them as an ingredient, leave the peel on the tray for several more days until completely dry. Transfer in a container lined with kitchen paper where they will last for months.
After half a year they become really dry and you might need to soak them in a little warm water, limoncello or brandy before using.
Use the leftover syrup for yogurt, pannacotta and gelato.