How to make Candied Citron Peel

candied fruit stand in Italy

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”.

Proper candied fruit is indeed addictive, fragrant, intense and not plasticky at all. It imparts wonderful citrus nuances to any cake, cookies, or sweet breads. I also dice it into special salads.

artichoke salad with candied citron
This is a wonderful artichoke and almond salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and candied citron bits.

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.

Sicilian Citron is a citrus used for candied fruit
Citrons look like large knobbly lemons

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.

citron fruit used for making candied peel

Recipe

  • 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.

citrus peel cooked in syrup to candy

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.

candied citrus peels

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.

a beautiful brown sugar custard topped with homemade candied citrus and syrup (recipe)

 

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the post…Solook forward to updates on Assisi and surrounding areas…Hope to get back to that area soon …I am hoping to try the loin braised in pork this week…recipe sounds simply delicious…

  2. what is the scientific name of the last, please? I thought citron was a sort of melon.

    • Citron melon is a variety of watermelon, Citrullus lanatus. Some botanists classify it as a separate species, Citrullus caffer. Citron melon is the “correct” melon for watermelon rind pickles.

      A few generations ago in the American South, citron melons were also candied and used in pies and cakes just like the citrons in this post, Citrus medica.

      • Thanks John. Was given 20 Citron Melons and have just finished the process of cooking the “fruit” and cutting up the rind. I am going to try to candy the rind. Will be interesting.

  3. What a useful post! Candied citron and orange are almost impossible to find in these parts. And when you do, they are invariably disappointing. Making your own looks like a good option. It’s a lot easier than one would have imagined!

  4. thank you Frank, it’s been a life changing recipe for me. I am making biscotti with homemade dehydrated figs and candied orange right now and the results are fantastic because of the superior ingredients!

  5. Thanks for the citron recipe! I actually have been making candied citron yearly. Citrons are used this time of year by Jews throughout the world for the holidays. Until now I was following a recipe similar to the one you have for orange peels. Why do you recommend the resting-period method for the citrons? Thank you very much! Nathan

    • Hello Nathan and thanks for visiting my blog, I would love to know which Jewish recipes use citron. I am very fond of homemade candied fruit and always look for new ideas to use them. As for the resting, the peels absorb most of the sugar in the syrup which will preserve them for a long time. In my experience this is not really necessary for oranges as the peel is thinner. I hope this helps!

      • Thank you for your helpful response. Sorry for being unclear. Jews don’t use them in recipes. They actually just hold the citron along with a date palm branch and other plants and shake them in prayer. [People can pay over $100 for a citron – based on shape, color and pedigree!] However after the holiday many cook them as preserves.

  6. Hello, I found your recipe by chance having accidentally wiped a file on my computer, searching for the timings of citrus peel. I have a cedro in a huge pot in London they make delicious candied peel. Question, how long does the syrup last and how do you best store it? I’ve made, almost this same recipe for years and never managed to keep the syrup for more than a day or two, usually have to throw it away before the peel is dried out. Thank you for this recipe, I will try your version in the coming weeks.

    • hello Vicki, I am delighted that you are interested in this recipe. What happens to your syrup? I generally bring it to boil and then pour it in a sterilized glass jar and close it when still very hot. Then I leave it upside down on the counter until at room temperature. Canning the syrup allows you to keep it for a very long time provided that you refrigerate it when opened. However, if refrigerated too long, the syrup will crystallize and become hard to use. I generally open a jar when I know I will use it relatively often. Occasionally, I have use the canned syrup to add it to fresh syrup to use for candied citrus. I hope this helps!

      • Thanks, I’ll try that. It’s boiling away as I write this. The last time I made it the syrup went cloudy, I will boil it again before bottling it, fingers crossed. The second type of boiling, with the sugar… what is the timing of the boil and rest periods? Do you leave it to go cold completely between boilings? Happy New Year in advance!

        • Hello Vicki, I am so sorry I did not manage to reply earlier. I boil the peels once a day and let them soak in the syrup. They do need time to absorb the syrup so I would not boil them more often. Just cover and leave them in the kitchen to cure. I hope this is still useful!

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