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Sweet-sour treat made from discards

Recipe: Candied citrus peel is an old-fashioned favorite

Candied citrus peel drying on a rack
Candied citrus peel dries on a rack. The treat is
easy to make from peel you might otherwise
discard. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Candied citrus peel is the original sweet and sour treat. Easy to make, this old-fashioned candy uses what normally would be discarded – the outer peel of oranges, lemons or grapefruit.

“To me, (it’s) the perfect way to end a large meal,” says cookbook author Mark Bittman, the former New York Times food columnist.

Choose thick-skinned varieties of citrus such as navel or Valencia oranges, Eureka or Meyer lemons or grapefruit (especially pink or Cocktail grapefruit). Cara Cara oranges work, too.

The peel is simmered in water to soften the bitter white pith and make it easy to scrape off. Then, the peel is cut into long strips and simmered in syrup. After absorbing the syrup, the peel strips are rolled in sugar, then dried. Covered with sweetness, the peel hardens as it dries.

Grapefruit peel on a cutting board
Grapefruit peel takes a little more work to
candy than orange peel does, but it's worth it.

Grapefruit needs a little extra work. Boil it three times, changing the water each time, to remove any bitterness.

As for sugar, try rolling the peel pieces in demerara sugar. The large granules add crunch along with the sweet-sour flavor.

Candied citrus peel

Makes about 4 dozen pieces
4 thick-skinned oranges or lemons or 2 grapefruit
2 cups sugar
Demerara sugar or white sugar for rolling


Peel the skin from the fruit, reserving the flesh for another use.

Place the skin in a heavy saucepan and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until peel is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup liquid.

If using grapefruit, return peel to pan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain. Then, repeat process once more, so the grapefruit peel has been boiled and simmered three times.

With a spoon, scrape off pith from the inside of the peel. Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut the peel into long strips.

Combine 2 cups sugar with the 1 cup of reserved liquid in the saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Let boil until mixture reaches 236 degrees F. (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer.

Reduce heat to low and return cut peel to the saucepan. Cook peel in syrup over low heat until the peel has absorbed most of the syrup, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let peel cool in the syrup.

Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of demerara or white sugar in a pie plate. When the peel has cooled enough to be handled (about 10 minutes), remove pieces of peel from the syrup with tongs one at a time. Let drain briefly, then roll peel gently in the sugar. Pick up peel pieces individually with another tongs, gently shake off excess sugar, then dry pieces on a rack for a few hours. The pieces will harden as they dry.

Store wrapped in waxed paper or in an airtight container.
Note: For an even more special treat, melt 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons shortening, then dip the dried and sugared peel in the chocolate. Let dry and store as note above.

Adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman (Macmillan)