I’m notorious for giving homemade goodies at the holidays—from bags of squishy marshmallows and freshly ground hot chocolate to bottles of velvety Irish Cream.
I’m not usually one to brave the pre-Christmas crush at the malls (and I’m not organized enough to get my shopping done months in advance)—plus, I spend most of my time in the kitchen, anyway.
So it kind of works out.
Candied fruit peel is one of those miraculous acts of culinary alchemy.
You take tough, bitter fruit rind that’s packed with oil you could use to polish your furniture, and, thanks to the magic of sugar, transform it into heavenly, fragrant candy.
The result is one part fruit, one part sweet jelly—and totally delicious.
They’re like those fruit slices that my grandmother used to love. (You know the ones I mean.)
Only a thousand times better.
Candied fruit peel is easier than you might think to make at home.
Basically, you blanch thin strips of peel to remove most of their bitterness, then let them take a leisurely soak in a bubbling sugar bath.
Let them drip dry, then roll them around in sugar until they’re wearing sparkle-y little sweaters.
Leave them out on a rack overnight to cure, and package them up and start handing them around.
That’s it! The process isn’t instant, but it certainly is easy.
To me, the hardest part of this whole process is getting the peel off in nice, presentable pieces.
I’ve included detailed instructions on how to do just that.
Should I remove the white pith from the peel?
I say no. Here’s why.
A little unscientific research on the interwebs reveals that there are differing opinions on how much of the papery white pith to remove from the peel.
Some folks recommend scraping off every last bit of it, because it’s bitter.
Some say leave the pith on and blanch the peels.
I’m in the latter camp. A quick swim in boiling water soaks out a lot of that bitterness.
The simmering sugar bath takes care of the rest. I never cut the pith off, and it’s never been a problem.
Plus, it means there’s less prep—and more candy to love.
So, pith on or off: It’s entirely up to you.
This recipe will work with most citrus fruits
I happened to use oranges, but this technique will work with lemon, lime, grapefruit, and blood orange (etc.).
Candied fruit peel + flavored simple syrup = two treats in one
Once you cook the fruit peel, don’t toss the sugar syrup!
It’s deeply flavorful and will make a wonderful addition to desserts, cocktails, and tea.
Just pour the sugar syrup through a strainer to capture any errant bits of peel, then toss it in the fridge and use within a month or so.
This recipe calls for equal parts sugar and water, just like regular simple syrup.
The addition of the fruit peel and the long cooking time can throw your proportions off, though, which means that your syrup may wind up crystallizing a little—or a lot.
If that happens, just heat the syrup up to liquify it again and you’re good to go.
Candied Orange Peel
3 large oranges
4 cups water
4 cups sugar + 1 cup sugar for coating the peel
Yields about 3/4 – 1 lb. candy, depending on how big your oranges are
Peel the oranges
Grab your oranges.
Give them a rinse under cold water, then wipe them dry.
Whack about a quarter-of-an-inch off each end.
You want about this much of the inside showing:
With a sharp paring knife, cut through the peel and into the white pith.
Slice through the peel from the top of the orange to the bottom.
Don’t cut all the way through the pith and into the fruit.
Make the same cut a few inches over.
Cut a shallow semi-circle into the top of the orange at the edge of the peel to connect the two cuts you just made.
Wiggle your finger under one edge of the peel.
Work your finger down under the peel to separate it from the fruit.
Keep going until you’ve removed the whole piece of peel.
Repeat this process until you’ve removed all the peel in nice, whole pieces.
Then do the same with the other oranges.
At this point, if you’re like me, you may start playing with the orange rinds, like they’re Legos.
Save the oranges, and do something yummy with them.
Slice each piece of peel into thin strips.
Mine were about as wide as a No. 2 pencil, give or take.
Blanch the orange peels
Put a few inches of water in a medium-sized pot and set it on the stove over high heat to boil.
(Sidebar: Look for a post soon on how to make an easy homemade polish for your embarrassingly tarnished copper pots.)
When it’s boiling, drop in all the sliced orange peel.
Give the pot a stir to soak them all.
Boil for about 20 minutes.
Drain the peel in a colander. Run under cold water until the peels are cool to the touch (this will take a minute or two).
I should note that many recipes have you blanch the peel a few times. I’ve done it that way before, and I honestly don’t see any difference.
Once is just fine with me.
At this point, your peels will be floppy and kind of sad looking.
That’s just fine. Leave ’em in the colander while you whip up the sugar syrup.
Simmer the fruit peel in sugar syrup
Put the water and sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk to combine.
Bring the syrup up to a boil, whisking occasionally until all the sugar melts.
When the sugar syrup is boiling, carefully add the blanched peel to the pot.
(Be careful! Boiling sugar is like napalm.)
Give the peel a stir. Lower the heat a little.
You want to maintain a rolling (but not furious and bubbling over) boil.
Boil the peel for about 45 minutes like this.
(Keep a good eye on the pot after 30 minutes. Your peel may take more or less time, depending on how thick it is.)
Your kitchen will start to smell amazing after a few minutes.
The peel is done when it’s translucent.
It should look jellied and clear, like candy:
Drain the orange peel
Grab a baking sheet. Line it with a few paper towels.
Set a rack on top of the towels.
A few at a time, fish the peel out of the syrup with a fork.
Set the peel on your prepared rack to drain.
Repeat until all the peel is on the rack.
Let the peel drip dry for about 15 minutes.
Roll the fruit peel in sugar & dry out overnight
Remove the sticky rack with the orange peel from the sheet pan and set it aside on the counter.
Put a clean rack in its place on the pan. (You don’t want to use the same, sticky one for the finished candy.)
After about 15 minutes, put 1 cup of sugar in a medium-sized bowl.
Drop a few pieces of the peel into the sugar.
(I do this a few pieces at a time to keep them from clumping together.)
Roll the peel around to coat on all sides.
You want each piece to be completely coated, like this.
Give the peel a tap against the side of the bowl to knock off the extra sugar.
Set the sugar-coated peel on the clean rack.
Repeat with the rest of the peel until it’s all coated in sugar.
Space them out so they’re not touching. Leave them out just like this, uncovered, to dry out overnight.
Save the syrup!
Don’t forget all that luscious syrup.
Run it through a strainer to remove any bits of peel that might be left in it.
Let it cool to room temperature, then pop it into the fridge and use it up within a month.
Depending on how much liquid evaporated, it might solidify a little (or a lot) in the fridge.
If that happens, just heat it up to dissolve.