Since most pesticide residue is found in the skin, it’s important to use organic fruit when making candied citrus peels. Most but not all organic citrus is unwaxed. If you can find only waxed organic citrus, use a vegetable scrubber or clean toothbrush to remove the coating. The sweetest citrus fruits—‘Meyer’ lemons, clementines, ‘Minneola’ tangelos, pomelos, honey tangerines—yield the sweetest candy, but grapefruit also works well.
To prepare the peels, cut the fruit in quarters. Cut away the fruit and use a sharp knife to scrape off as much of the white pith as possible. More pith can remain on sweeter fruit (it absorbs the syrup well and provides a nice color and texture contrast); for tarter fruit, get as much off as possible without breaking through the fruit skin. Save the fruit pulp to eat later.
Cut quarters into 3⁄4-to-1-inch-wide strips about 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch thick, or into shapes as desired using craft scissors.
Blanch the peels to tenderize them as well as remove any bitterness and concentrate flavor. Fill a large pot with enough water to fully cover the peels and boil over medium heat until tender and almost translucent. Depending on how bitter the peels are, you may need to blanch them more than once, using fresh water each time.
Refreshing the blanched peels in ice water stops the cooking process and ensures that the peels retain their texture.
Candied peel gets its sweetness from being cooked in simple syrup, a mixture of equal quantities of water and sugar. A little cream of tartar is also added to avoid crystallization. Add drained peels to the simple syrup and simmer, stirring only occasionally, until the temperature reaches 230°F on a candy thermometer.
Drain the sweetened fruit peels, reserving the simple syrup to use in drinks or over ice cream. Place peels atop wire racks set on rimmed baking trays lined with waxed paper or paper towels and let them “drip dry,” using a fork to turn them occasionally.
Toss the cooled peels in a bowl or bag of granulated sugar. Place sugared peels atop clean racks. In low-humidity climates, leave the peels out to dry for about 24 hours; in higher-humidity climates, you may need to leave them for a couple of days.
You can coat candied peel in chocolate for an extra-special treat. For best results, use only the highest-quality bittersweet, semisweet, milk, or white chocolate and melt it slowly in a double boiler.
Dip each slice a third of the way to halfway into the chocolate. Place on plates lined with waxed paper and refrigerate for about 15 minutes until the chocolate is set.
Photos: Alison Conklin