Sweet, absolutely naturally flavored citrus peel (you are making the peel itself into candy!) makes a wonderful gift and uses something that is generally discarded! These remind us a little of gummy worm in texture, as they are soft in the middle, but they have more variety of texture than gummy worms because of the crunchy sugar coating. Plus, nothing beats nature's complex flavor profiles like these strips provide.
And you can certainly chop them up and throw them into muffins for Christmas morning, use them in homemade truffles, dice them finely and add to shortbread cookie or sugar cookie dough. Or dip half of each candied peel into melted chocolate. Or what about topping a piece of fudge with a small sliver? The possibilities are endless here. These do use a lot of sweetener, by the way, which is why I don't make them all the time. But Christmas is definitely the time of year to make them, as citrus is often on sale and abundant! If you can, buy citrus that has not been waxed and organic to avoid some of the residues on the peel.
Another bonus to this recipe? You are left with a gorgeous citrus-y sugar syrup perfect for drizzling on waffles, pancakes, or ice cream, adding to hot or cold tea, or using in a wide variety of applications! I bet a hot chocolate sweetened with this syrup would be divine.
I made my candies with grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime peels. You can use all orange, or a mix of whatever you like!
Candied Citrus Peel (Makes about 4 cups)
This makes a large batch, so that you have plenty to share or use in different applications. I am sure you could divide this batch by half or thirds, if desired.
- 6 medium oranges, or whatever citrus fruits you'd like to use
- 4 cups of unbleached, evaporated organic cane sugar (you can also try using other sweeteners; this is what I choose to use for this recipe because of the lighter flavor and color)
- 3 cups of water
1. Cut off the top and bottom of the citrus fruit, and score the peel with a sharp knife into 4 pieces diagonally to make peeling it easier. Peel off each quarter (if you have an orange peel doesn't cling to the fruit, you can simple peel it without the above, trying to keep it in larger pieces). Cut the peel into long strips about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Do this with all of the fruit. Save the fruit for other uses.
2. In a medium/large pot add the citrus peels and cover with water (I use filtered). Bring to a low simmer over high heat, lower heat to keep at a low simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain over the sink using a fine sieve, carefully. Place peels back in the pot, and cover with water again. Bring to a simmer, lower heat, and cook for another 15 minutes. Drain again, well. This removes a lot of the bitterness from the peel. Set aside the peel.
3. In the same, now empty, pot place 3 cups of water and 3 cups of the sugar. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat, waiting until the sugar has dissolved into the water. Add the peel, and bring back to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 45 minutes. Take off of the heat and allow the mixture to cool somewhat. The citrus peels should be quite soft. Drain through a fine sieve over a heat safe bowl. Make sure the citrus peels are well-drained. Then toss small batches of the peels in the leftover 1 cup of sugar. (You may need to use a little bit more sugar, depending on how big your citrus fruits were.)
4. Allow to dry on a cooling rack over a pan (to catch excess sugar and any drips), or place on plates/pans to dry, and flip over half way through the drying process. I allowed mine to dry overnight, and they were perfect. They should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside when done. It could take up to 48 hours, and as little as 5 hours. They will last at least 3 days at room temperature and freeze well too.