Candied citrus peels have a lot of flavor in a little, sugary package and they’re a lovely treat to make after you’ve just juiced a lot of citrus fruit because they make good use of all those orange and lemon rinds. You can candy any kind of citrus fruit, but one of my favorites is lemon because it has a bright flavor and goes well with all kinds of recipes.
I use a paring knife to cut the skin off of the lemon, getting only a small amount of the pith (the white part beneath the skin) and try to keep the peels at a uniform thickness, even if they are unevenly shaped. I then cut each large strip into several smaller strips before candying. Candied orange peels are typically cut into uniform strips and are often served as a candy in their own right. I rarely see this with candied lemon peel. And while I like to snack on them when I make them, I don’t typically serve them on their own, either. As a result, I am a lot more casual about slicing my peels before candying. There is a lot of variation in the size and shape of my candied lemon peels, though I try to keep the thickness uniform, and they turn out just fine.
Once your peels are cut, the next step in candying lemon peels is to blanch the rind to remove any bitterness. Some recipes advise you to do this up to three times, changing the water and blanching again. I tend to only do this step once. I use organic lemons and meyer lemons and don’t find them to be too bitter, even with a small amount of pith still on the rind. So, I feel that this is a matter of personal preference and you can blanch your rinds up to two more times if you prefer when you try this recipe at home.
The peels are then cooked in a sugar syrup until they are tender and well-infused with sugar. The peels are dried, then rolled in more sugar to give them a crisp finish. The peels store very well and, once they are completely dry, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to several weeks. They can also be incorporated into other recipes or used as a garnish for desserts.
And don’t forget to save the leftover sugar syrup when making this recipe. It is very sweet and has a terrific lemon flavor, so it can be used to sweeten drinks or make a big batch of lemonade!
Candied Lemon Peel
4 cups water, divided
2 cups sugar
additional sugar for coating
Use a paring knife to strip the outer rind (the yellow portion) from the lemons. A small amount of pith (the white portion) on the rinds is fine, but it should not be a thick layer. Slice rinds into fine strips, about 1/4 inch thick.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add lemon rinds and boil for 5-10 minutes. Drain.
Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Add lemon peels and reduce heat to a simmer. Cool until peels are translucent and very tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your peels.
Remove peels from syrup, drain and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Toss peels in additional sugar to coat, then spread them in a single layer on a piece of parchment or wax paper and allow them to dry completely, 4-6 hours.
Store in an airtight container when dry.
Makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups candied peel.