Citrus time of year here! This time of the year you can buy big pockets of oranges for very little. It is so wonderful how nature stores summer’s sun light to bring its light to us in such a delicious way, just when we need it most; in the darkest time of the year. I always believed that no house is a home without a lemon tree. Sadly as for my own lemon and citrus trees; every place where I ever lived never came with a lemon tree and I had to plant my own citrus trees but just as soon as they started to bear fruits, I had to move.
So often I see lemon trees hanging heavily with fruit and unwanted fruit rotting under the trees. This has always irked me – all those beauties going to waste. If life handed me lemons I will know what to do with it. Most people hate to see fruit going to waste but just don’t know what to do about it. In days gone past, there was a wonderful exchange among neighbours and communities of over abundant home grown produce but now-a-days with so few people even knowing who their neighbours are this sadly does not happen anymore. So, I decided to do something about it. I asked around who had lemon trees with lemons going to waste and I had a wonderful response.
As many bags full of lemons as I could pick later, I have made every lemon recipe I could think of, from cakes, sours, preserves and syrups to dried and candied peels. I cannot even bear to throw away the peels for I know these lemons are grown without any pesticides. I use the dried peels in my spice blends as well as my herbal bath salts. As for the candied peels, if they survive my family’s snacking they will make great Christmas gifts dipped in dark chocolate. Mmm … I will have to hide some.
Candied Citrus Peel
(I save the peels from the citrus fruits that I used the juice for other recipes, rather than just using the fruits for making the candied peels.)
Peels from about 4 oranges, or two grapefruit or eight small lemons or limes
4 cups water
2 cups sugar,
Castor sugar for coating
1. Use a small sharp knife, to cut away the white pith from the underside of the peels.
2. Slice the peels into long, thin strips. You will also be left with uneven and odd pieces, use them too, they also taste great.
3. Combine water and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and heat, uncovered, until the sugar boils for 5 minutes.
4. Add the strips of peel and turn the heat down to low, so that the syrup just simmers. Cook, uncovered until the syrup reduces to a quarter of its original volume (the syrup will barely cover the tops of the peels). Do not stir during this process, as that might cause the formation of large sugar crystals. The simmering will take approximately 2 hours.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool. Then drain the peels in a sift over a jug.
6. Place castor sugar in a small flat bow, like a soup bowl. Dip the peels in the sugar until they are lightly coated, and shake off any excess sugar, then place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. You will find that your fingers will get coated too, and will cause blobs of sugar to stick to the peels, so wipe your fingers regularly during the process. Add more sugar if necessary.
7. Place the sugar-coated peels in a warm drawer or a cool oven (about 110 C degrees or 200 degrees F) and allow them to dry out. This should take approximately one hour, but check often to ensure that they are not burning or cooking in any way.
8. Once peels are completely dry, scrape off any excess sugar clumps. Store them in a dry location and they should keep for weeks. Candied peels can be dipped in melted chocolate or eaten plain, or used in cake, cookie, candy, or bread recipes.