Sunday, November 29, 2015

Candying citrus for the holidays

At our last Bountiful Basket we received lots of tangerines and lots of lemons. I'm always at a loss as to what to do with bunches of lemons. I can only drink so much lemon water. And citrus in general, while I enjoy it, I do not like preparing it. I hate getting sticky when peeling the rind and I don't like dealing with the seeds. Then a week later a BB friend gave me her tangerines, and suddenly I was overflowing with citrus.

In my mind, the implicit contract is that if a friend gives me some of their Basket, I will eat the produce, and not let it go to waste. I began peeling four of the tangerines and it was slow going. The effort didn't produce much fruit, since the tangerines were small. There's got to be a better way.

There is: candy them.

I looked at numerous recipes and the only difference is that some said to blanch the slices before boiling them, to reduce the sourness of the rind. Others said that step was not necessary. Being me, I chose the path of least resistance, and skipped blanching.

Since my usual process when receiving a Bountiful Basket is to soak the produce in tepid vinegar water for ten minutes to clean them, I did not wash these. But otherwise, DO wash them thoroughly. One YouTube recipe gal said that the pesticides reside in the rind so organic is best. Something to think about. Use fresh citrus without blemishes or bruises on the rind. Again, you're eating the rind. Plus, you want them to look pretty.

What you need is citrus of any kind. I used tangerines and lemons. Oranges of course will do. As a matter of fact, you don't even need the fruit. Many recipes described how to candy the rind only.

It helps to have a sharp knife to make even cuts without a lot of juice loss. My knives were kind of dull and I had to hold the tangerine firmly to slice it and I lost juice and form. You see some of the slices below look a little squished. Slice them about 1/4 inch.

Deal with the seeds. My advice is to buy citrus that's seedless or nearly so. You can tell I have low patience for kitchen work, lol.

The recipes varied slightly on ratio of sugar to water. I used a 1-to-1 ratio. I poured in to my skillet 2 cups water to 2 cups sugar. I used regular, white granulated sugar. Some recipes advise using a deep stock pot. Others say a wide pan is OK. I used a wide pan but I'd use a deep stock pot next time. I didn't like the steam going all over the place. The steam is sugar water and it made the stove top sticky. It would be easier to contain the steam with a narrower opening.

Stir the sugar in the water upon initially pouring-in but refrain from doing that after there are bubbles appearing in the water when it heats up, said one recipe. It will crystallize.

Boil moderately high for a few minutes then moderately low. Cook until the rinds are translucent. As I went along, I just tasted one or two of them at different stages. When it was soft and sweet, I stopped.

Take them out and drain them on a grate over wax paper or a larger cookie sheet. You want them to get really dry. Some recipes say this stage takes a few hours to a few days. Others say after the initial sugar juice is drained well to pop them in a very low oven for a few hours. I did not have a cooling rack or grate to put them on so I made do with a colander. Cooling rack or grate or mesh of some kind is better. You want the air to circulate well.

When they are dry but still tacky, you can put them in a ziploc or a large bowl and tumble them with a bit of granulated sugar to give that crunchy effect. I had ended up using all my sugar in the boiling and forgot to leave aside a few tablespoons. Some recipes say add the sugar at the end, others stop here. It's a personal preference. I thought it wouldn't be the same without the added crunch of the sugar at the end, but the slices were delicious the way they were.

However the small amount you see here is indicative of the fact that I ate most of them right away! Despite the long description here, the recipe is very easy. Slice, boil/simmer, dry, eat. They keep up to two weeks in the fridge. Oh, and DON'T throw away the sugar water! It makes a nice syrup in and of itself!


Anonymous said...

This sounds really good. I wonder if grapefruit would work. What will you use the syrup for?


Elizabeth Prata said...

Hi Melissa,

I figured if the lemons tasted good, grapefruit would too. I'd use whatever citrus you have on hand. I used half the sugar water ("simple syrup") for poaching Seckel pears (cute, tiny, sweet pears) and the other half will be used as a sweetener for my hibiscus chilled tea. :)