There are some traditional Christmas breads, cookies and cakes that call for candied citrus peels. It is so easy to make–why buy it from the grocery store when you can make it in about an hour at home?! Don’t get me wrong. There are versions that make confection-grade candied peel. That is time-intensive and a bit more challenging. Instead, what I’m talking about is candied peels for use in baked goods. All you need to do is simmer some peel in a sugar syrup for a while. It’s as easy as that.
I’ve had the most luck with orange peel using this method. Lemon peel is more challenging because it can taste nasty from the bitterness if not candied correctly. I’m limiting this post to candied orange peel. I’ll save lemon peel for another day.
First, you need to have some peel on hand to work with! I saved the peels from navel oranges we ate over the course of a couple of days in a jar covered in water until I had peels from about 5 oranges. This helps get the peels soft so that they are easier to cut up.
For use in baking, you usually need cubes of peel, so when I am ready to get going with making candied peel, I drain the jar full of peel and cut up the peels into strips and then into small, 1 cm x 1 cm cubes.
You need to get the bitterness out from the peel, so put the cubed peel in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat this step 3 or 4 times.
Next, it’s time to prepare a sugar syrup. You can go two routes at this point. You can bring the sugar syrup with the peels to a boil and then simmer both together, or you can heat the sugar syrup separately until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage, and then add in the peels. I’ve done it both ways and honestly do not see the difference, at least if you just need the peel to add to cake or cookies (or German stollen for that matter). This time around, I decided to try out being a candy-maker, so I heated the sugar syrup first to 238°F.
When the right temperature was reached, I added in the orange peel cubes. I turned down the heat and simmered the peel for nearly half an hour–until the peel was soft and translucent. Only about a tablespoon of syrup was left. I transferred the cubes to a parchment-lined wire rack and let them cool to room temperature.
I then stored the candied peel in a jar and put it in the refrigerator to be doubly sure that it won’t spoil since I wasn’t going to use it immediately. Probably overkill, but I get paranoid when it comes to food spoilage.
The first stop for this candied peel was to add it to gingerbread!
[Here is another recipe for candied orange peel that you may find easier than the one described in this post: Best Candied Orange Peel for Breads, Cakes, and Cookies]