Issue 30

Candied Fruit Peels?

Candied Fruit Peels?

If I were to blog, candied fruit and fruit peels would definitely be a topic worth noting, since blogging can take us into the itty bitty and the nitty gritty, as well as the tiny but tasty.  As a cook who dislikes paying extra for what I can do better, taking a moment to zest, slice, and candy some fruit bits can help bolster your dry pantry stocks and open up some lovely options when searching for flavor combinations in anything from baked goods to main courses.  The main reason is that citrus packs an amazing amount of flavor.  It adds complexity, acidity, and floral and herbal notes without adding fat.  But to put actual citrus juice in a recipe requires fresh fruit, and it needs a certain type of recipe.  You can’t go willy nilly dumping fruit juice in most dairy-based sauces for fear of curdling, and most breads and cookies will not stand for tinkering with their wet to dry ratios without throwing them off disastrously.  Squeezing citrus to finish may work with grilled poultry and seafood, but if you aren’t careful you can just make the dish bitter and overpower all your other flavors.

Candying preserves your citrus for the pantry and allows you to keep a store handy.  Use organic fruits because the peel is the crucial part, and conventional fruits are not only absorbing pesticides, they are also often waxed.  For fruit peels, wash the lemons, limes, or oranges and then peel them with a good sharp peeler, taking care to take off only the top colored zest, and leave behind most of the white pith.  Make a simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water; usually 2 to 1 cups is enough) and heat it to a simmer, making sure the sugar is all dissolved.  Place your peels in, and cook them gently until they darken and become translucent.  Fish them out with tongs or a handled sieve and place them on aluminum or parchment over a sheet pan.  Don’t throw this syrup away, it can be used in creating sweetness in drinks or even making liqueurs, but be aware that it is very bitter.  Now slide your peels into a low (300°) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until just dry and crispy.  Let them cool and then you can store them in a plastic tub for up to a month.  And the possibilities are endless.

Crumble them into any fruit bread, biscotti, scone, or cookie and they turn something plain into something divine.  I saw a chef grind them, dust some prawns in the powder, and sauté them, but I have done that with chicken, pork, and veal as well as fish, to great effect.  For something like a panettone, stollen, hot cross buns and much of your holiday baking, you can dice up a whole lemon, lime or orange into small pieces (peel and all, but no seeds) and candy them in the simple syrup.  You’ll need to simmer them a bit longer (say 30 minutes) and they will need to be in the oven longer (about the same), and you should keep them airtight in the fridge, but they can be taken out and chopped up to add zing to braised dishes like lamb shanks, regular yeast breads or cookies, or as a garnish on chocolate mousse.  Of course, if you’re braising, you can always use salt-cured fruit peel, but that’s another story.  For now, candy some fruit peels.  Eat well and prosper.

Ann Summers

Ann Summers

Ann Summers is not a 40-umpthing-year old rock climber who got shut down in Boulder Canyon and drowned her failure in a microbrewery. She is neither a mother of two, a fan of Latin plant names nor a lover of fine Italian Grappa. You’ll not catch her shooting guns for fun or hollering like a redneck. She hates Shakespeare, and doesn’t call a certain fast food chain “The Scottish Restaurant.” She turns her nose up at organic yellow beets, eschews fresh oysters, and loathes chubby guinea pigs with Violent Femmes hairdos. She is also a dreadful liar

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