I have been wanting to make Candied Lemon Peel forever. If you have tasted the preservative-laden candied citron available in the typical grocery store, you understand why I had to make my own. There must be a better candied lemon peel product somewhere, but I haven’t found it. (Could this be it?)
What finally pushed me over the edge was the Candied Lemon Sage Tea Cake I am working on. To give it an over-the-top lemon flavor and a little texture besides, it needed chopped candied lemon peel. I made a double batch, so I will also be trying it out in Candied Lemon Brown Butter Friands and Candied Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies over the next week. I’m sure there are dozens of uses for it.
Now that I’ve gone down this path, I can see that I will have to keep the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen stocked with candied lemon peel from now on. It’s simply incomparable with a cup of tea or espresso. So much sensational flavor in such a tiny, guilt-free bite.
Everyone suggests dipping the peels in chocolate, but I can’t imagine why. I love them plain, with only a dusting of sugar to alleviate any remaining stickiness.
A word of caution: Many recipes for this simple preparation are wildly off the mark. The first recipe I tried was for candied lemon slices, and it called for simmering the slices in simple syrup for 15 minutes. Perhaps lemons vary in peel tenderness from region to region, but 15 minutes didn’t even come close to tenderizing my lemon peels. In fact, an hour was barely sufficient, and in addition to that hour, I also blanched the peels for 6 minutes before immersing them in the syrup. The rule here should be “until tender to the tooth.”
Next up: Candied Lemon Sage Tea Cake. I’m going to have another slice right now. Maybe I’ll make a pot of tea first.
Candied Lemon Peel
4 large, firm, organic lemons, ends trimmed
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
- To peel the lemons, slice off both ends. Insert a very sharp, small knife between the peel and the membrane that hugs the flesh, about ¼-inch deep, and work the knife all the way around the end of the lemon. Repeat on the other end.
- Make 4 equally spaced, ¼-inch deep, lengthwise slices through the peel. With the fingernail of your thumb and the help of your forefinger, pry each section of peel off the lemon, ideally leaving the membrane with the flesh of the lemon. (Reserve lemons for another use.)
- Cut each quarter piece of lemon peel lengthwise into 2-4 strips.
- Lay each strip peel-side down on a cutting board and with a very sharp, small knife sliver off as much of the pith as you can. Don’t worry about getting it all, however. You want some depth to the peel.
- In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a simmer.
- To blanch the lemon peel and rid it of most of the bitterness in the pith, add the peel to the simmering water in the saucepan, simmer for 2 minutes and drain into a colander.
- Repeat twice more, using fresh cold water each time.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and slowly bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. The sugar syrup should clear before the syrup reaches a simmer. If it doesn’t clear, lower the heat to beneath a simmer and continue whisking until the syrup is clear. Then bring back to a simmer.
- Add the triple blanched lemon peels to the sugar syrup and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the peel is translucent and tender.
- To test, lift a piece of peel from the syrup, let it cool slightly and then sample. If you can easily bite through the peel, it’s done. If not, continue simmering until the peel in fully tender. If the syrup becomes too thick, add additional water.
- When the peel is tender, remove from the heat.
- With a fork or small tongs, gently remove each piece of peel from the syrup and lay on a wire rack set on an edged baking sheet. Let cool completely and then dry for several hours.
- A few pieces at a time, toss the peel in sugar to coat and set on a clean wire rack to dry.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Candied Orange Peel
Use 2 large oranges instead of the lemons.
Candied Grapefruit Peel
Use 1 large grapefruit instead of the lemons.
Candied Lime Peel
Use large limes instead of the lemons.