What is it about Christmas that makes one think they need to make all manner of candy? I don't know, maybe everyone else is not thinking that, maybe it's just me. This time of year I become obsessed with all things sweet and yummy. And what perfect luck that on a recent trip to Whole Foods (my first, actually) I found some lovely organic, unwaxed lemons. I never seem to find them anywhere. I didn't have anything in mind when I found them, I just knew I would find something to do with them. I thought of limoncello and I still do want to try that one of these days but I wanted something that I could appreciate now and limoncello takes a while.
And that's when I remembered the candied lemon peels. I don't remember where I saw them, I know I've seen them for sale in fancy chocolate places and I had a teeny bit on top of a pastry that I tried recently that totally distracted me and made me wish for more. What better way to showcase organic, unwaxed lemons than by using their peel. There are a bunch of recipes on the net. There's an Epicurious one, a Bon Appetit one, a Martha Stewart one...All the usual suspects had some variation of a similar recipe, some more laborious than others. I used the Epicurious one as a template and took it from there.
They're really simple to make and I think they would make great holiday gifts in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon. They're delicious on their own and would be great chopped up and sprinkled on top of scones or mixed into cookie batter.
~Candied Lemon Peel
6 unwaxed, organic lemons, washed well.
3 cups sugar, plus another 1/2 cup or so for tossing the candied peels.
~Using your sharpest vegetable peeler or a good paring knife carefully remove the peels from the lemons. I used a vegetable peeler because I found mine was super shard and it peeled the peel with hardly any pith. I was less successful with a paring knife.
~In a medium sized sauce pan, bring a quart or so of water to a boil. Drop in the peels and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the peels (and this is where I departed from other recipes, I did not boil my peels more than once because they had almost no pith and were not very bitter, if you are unsure go ahead and taste a piece, if it's bitter, repeat the boiling process with fresh water 2 or 3 more times.) and set aside on a paper towel.
~Bring 3 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Do not let the syrup change colors, you just want to boil it until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear.
~Add your lemon peels and turn the heat to a medium low simmer. Simmer the peels until they turn mostly translucent, this took me about 15 minutes.
~Set out a baking sheet with a rack over it and pour a 1/2 cup or so of sugar into a shallow bowl.
~Using tongs, drop a few pieces of candied peel at a time into the sugar tossing or using a fork to coat.
~Transfer to sugared peels to the rack and allow to dry. Mine were ready in about an hour.
~I stored mine in a pretty glass jar on the counter, some recipes call for refrigeration but I'm thinking that might make them moist. Mine will stay on the counter. I doubt it will be very long.
Now, you will end up with some leftovers. The leftover sugar that I dipped the candied peels in had little bits of broken peel in it so I pulsed it in the food processor. I think it will make a nice topping to sprinkle on baked goods. You'll also have a ton of beautiful lemon colored simple syrup. I'm storing mine in a mason jar in the fridge. I have plans for it that involve alcohol. I think it's going to make a fabulous lemon drop!