Thursday, November 13, 2008

Candied Citrus Peel, Part One

I got it in my head to make mince pies this Christmas and, of course, to make the mincemeat from scratch. I had not, however, envisioned candying my own peel.
Last week when I was going to do laundry I didn't have any cash so I thought I would start collecting the ingredients I needed for mincemeat and get some cash back for my washing. Having seen the day before that the holiday baking display was up and the peel had arrived, I decided to start there. I have become a stickler for reading ingredients labels and much to my dismay the second ingredient was the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. People were candying peel long before there was high fructose corn syrup so I saw no reason why I couldn't either. I left the store with two Meyer lemons, a couple Valencia oranges, and enough cash back to wash and dry my clothes.
The Joy of Cooking came through with a recipe. Its first direction is to 'cut into thin strips and place in a heavy pan: 2 cups grapefruit, orange, lime or lemon peel.' It doesn't specify how to cut said thin strips so I got out my channel knife and started cutting away. I ended up with just over a cup of peel so adjusted the rest of the recipe accordingly. To get rid of the bitterness of the peel you have to bring the peel to a boil, simmer, strain, and 'repeat this process 3 to 5 times in all.' I repeated the process 3 times. Once the peel is sufficiently de-bittered you boil it in syrup until the syrup is absorbed and the peel is transparent. The Joy suggests 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of peel.
Although this is not mentioned in The Joy, I wiped down the edges of the pot with a wet pastry brush every-so-often to prevent crystals from forming in my syrup. The next direction is to 'roll it in: powdered sugar and spread on racks to dry.'
When my peel was done--rolled in sugar and spread on racks to dry--it did not resemble the picture I had in my head of candied peel. I tasted a piece and it was chewy, sweet, and citrusy, but I had a niggling doubt that it was not exactly what I needed for my mincemeat. I decided I could make it work and put it away in a Ball jar...

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