After last January’s Great Grapefruit Tragedy, I subsequently learned how to candy citrus peels successfully.

There are several tricks to it.  I’m sure I don’t know all of them, but here’s what I learned:

  • You can either have perfect fruit wedges or nice peels, but not both.  In this case, you’re sacrificing the fruit.
  • Thicker peels are easier to work with than thinner peels and larger fruit is easier than smaller.
  • Slice a good slice off the stem and blossom ends of the fruit; a circle of fruit should be exposed that’s about 2/3 of the width of the widest part of the fruit.
  • If the pith is still thickly attached, use a spoon or your thumb to push the pith away from the fruit.
  • Slice down the side of the fruit in a straight line.  Use your thumb or a spoon to pull the pith away from the fruit.  Your goal is to keep the pith as unbroken as possible (to make the prettiest pieces).
  • Use the fruit for something else, like practicing your supreme cuts.
  • Cut the pith into narrow, top-to-bottom strips (including the stem and blossom ends, minus the actual non-peel bits).  The stronger-tasting the fruit, the narrower the strips should be (to allow the blanching to pull out more bitterness and general flavor weirdness – I’m looking at you, grapefruit).  However, I keep forgetting this.  It’s not the end of the world.  Grapefruit, about 1/4 inch.  Oranges, about 1/3 inch.
  • Blanch the strips three times.  (Boil water.  Add strips.  Bring strips to a boil for approximately 5 minutes.  Drain strips.  Discard the water, or your mouth will feel like you turned it inside out.  It’s just weird.)
  • Put the blanched strips back in a pot and cover with a measured amount of water.  Add approximately 3/4 to 1 times as much white sugar to the water as you have water (for example, if you need 4 cups to cover the blanched strips, add 3 to 4 cups of white sugar.
  • The reason you need so much sugar is that you’re doing to the piths what seawater does to sailors in a lifeboat without fresh water:  the high sugarity (or whatever the word is for when you use sugar instead of salt) draws out the lower-sugar-concentrated water, and the sugar goes into the cells instead.  Gasp!  Who knew you could die of sugar dehydration.  Probably Willy Wonka, but I digress.
  • At first, your strips will look like normal strips.  However, you should persevere with the boiling until most of the pith looks like a jewel, and you can see light most of the way through it.
  • A word of warning:  it may be tempting to increase the sugar ratio or to use very little water.  However, as the water boils off, the syrup in which you are boiling your strips will start to either a) turn into candy itself or b) burn and turn into caramel.  I’m sure there are some interesting things you might try, such as burnt orange caramel, but that is not our goal here.  If the top of your syrup starts to froth up, add more water, about a cup.  Repeat as necessary.
  • When your patience has run out (this takes about half an hour – at least, it does when you’re at my altitude), remove your strips from the syrup and drain them in a colander.  Put a piece of waxed paper in a pan and a cup or two of sugar in a bowl. While the strips are still warm, put them in the sugar, swirl them around a bit, and put them on the waxed paper to dry.  You will need to leave the strips alone for an hour or two, then flip them over.  When they are as dried out as you like them, put them in an airtight container and hide them.  Better yet, have someone who doesn’t like them hide them.  Whatever they ask in bribery to retrieve them for a party or whatever is worth it to keep yourself from eating them all before it’s time.