This is a method for candying citrus peels that works FOR ME. It is not a professional method, it has flaws, it is not “the perfect”, BUT it works for ME (hence that “my”). It delivers the type of candied peels that I like: still juicy and fruity, with a faint bitterness in the background, not overly sweet.
The following are to be regarded as working notes, drawn from experience and other cooks’ versions.
I do not have any “culinary scientific evidence” for some of the things I say – you decide, if they make sense to you or not.
The peels must be thoroughly washed first obviously.
First of all, I collect the peels over days (unless I decide to candy slices or whole fruits, as in whole mandarins).
Whenever I juice oranges/ lemons/grapefruits, I quarter the two halves and I scrape off some of the pulp left, with a spoons. When I eat them, I quarter the fruit and remove the flesh with a sharp knife: this will give you obviously a cleaner finish. In either situations, I then freeze the peels. This allows me to build my stock gradually, instead of having to use many fruits in one go: it is also a recommended step for the actual candying, because it helps break down the structure of the peel, thus make it absorb the sugar more efficiently.
If you want to try and candy whole clementines, freeze them too.
When I candy sliced fruit, I do not freeze the slices (there is no logic here: I must try actually)
You can now proceed to to remove excess bitterness from the peels. One has two possibilities:
1. soak the peels in cold water for seven to ten days, changing the water twice a day. This will possibly give you the best texture at the end, with peels that are still pleasantly firm. I decide when to stop the soaking by tasting the peels, after five days: if I am happy with the residual bitterness I carry on to the next stage. If it is still too strong, I carry on with the soaking.
This method works wonderfully with oranges, clementines (whole or halved) and grapefruit. Lemon and citron might stil be too bitter for you, even after ten days.
You can soak the fruit from frozen.
2. boil the peels. This has the advantage of being quicker and to remove bitterness more thoroughly. It works especially well with lemons and citrons. The final candied peel will be a little softer and some sources say less fragrant. Attention must be paid not to overcook the peels, otherwise they become mushy.
This is what I do: I place the peels in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. I bring them slowly to simmering I drain and refresh them thoroughly under running water. I repeat this twice. The water must not boil furiously because you want to preserve a certain bite in the fruit .
I then leave them to drain on a cloth and I carry on to the next stage.
You will have to thaw the fruit in cold water before cooking it in this manner.
Candying the fruit
Weight the fruit. Weight out three times its weigh in granulated sugar and three times its weight in water.
For example: if you have 100 g peels, you want 300 g water and 300 g sugar (this is a tip from the good blog Trattoria da Martina). This will allow you to have plenty of syrup, which is essential for the process. I have also sometimes used a lower ratio (1:2:2) and that worked too. I would suggest you go for the higher ratio your first time. to get a hang of the process.
Use a room saucepan and combine water and sugar. Bring to the boil, whisking occasionally to help dissolving the sugar. Add the peels and switch off the heat From now on, the fruit should be submerged all the time in this heavy syrup. Find some object that pushes and keeps the fruit down or and this is the route I have taken lately (not having found any suitable object), I simply push the peels down in the syrup every time I pop in the kitchen, i.e. many times a day.
Le the fruit rest in the syrup for 24 hours, uncovered.
Remove it with a spider into a colander, placed in/over a bowl. Bring the syrup to a strong boil, add the syrup that has meanwhile dripped in the bow and boil vigorously for 30 seconds. Carefully, add the fruit and switch off. Let the fruit rest in the syrup for another 24 hours, uncovered.
Repeat this for five days. Then start tasting. Is the fruit already sweet enough for you or do you want it sweeter? Carry on the process until you are satisfied with the level of sweetness. If, at any point, the syrup is not enough, you will have to make more: it has never happened to me though. If it did, I would add a very heavy syrup, maybe of one part water and 1.5 part sugar (no logic in this). I store my candied peels in the freezer, not at room temperature, hence I do not particularly care for full candying : I want to still be able to taste the fruit. If you want to store them at room temperature, you must make sure that the pith is completely translucent, i.e. full with sugar (so to speak- the sugar works as a preserver).
Drain the fruit on a rack, positioned on a tray. Let the peels dry for 24 hours. Then, store them either in fridge or, for longer periods, in the freezer. I have stored them in either and I had never had any issue, but I am no expert in preservation.
I have never been able so far to find a good use to the leftover syrup: some sources claim it is good drizzled on cakes or in drinks, but I have never liked that, whe I tried: I throw it away.
Notes, if you want to make the celebrated Italian mostarda, the hot, mustardy candied fruit that Italians love with boiled meat and sausages, you will need to add some mustard essence to the sweet syrup, at the very end and then preserve the fruit in this syrup.I have never made it, but I though it is worth mentioning it.