Homemade candied fruitIf you have recipes that call for candied fruit (Christmas stollen recipe to come later) but don't like the idea of those gummy-bear-artificial-colored candied fruits at the store, make your own. It isn't difficult, but it is time-consuming. But if you can boil water and peel an orange, you have the skills.
A large saucepan
A medium saucepan (optional, but it reduces the time requirement)
Wooden spoon (or other non heat-conductive stirring device, although anything would serve in a pinch)
A wire rack, such as a cooling rack
A cookie pan or some other device to put under the wire rack
Parchment paper (actually, optional, but speeds cleanup)
Colander or sieve
Two methods: One is for candying fresh citrus peels. The second is for candying any dried fruit, such as dried cherries. (Most dried fruit is actually sweet enough for me, but you can up that by poaching briefly in simple syrup. )
For candied orange, lemon or lime peels:
Peel the fruit and cut into strips. (If you dice it now, it will fall through the wire rack, and you don't want that.) I found that peeling the orange the regular way is fine, but for the lime and lemon, I used a vegetable peeler. You don't have to worry about not getting the white part, the pith -- it will get taken care of in the process.
I need each fruit peel separately, which is probably not necessary, but I wanted to keep them separate for later use.
Put the peels in cold water in the big saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or so. Drain in the colander and put back in the saucepan with fresh, cold water. Repeat. Taste. It will taste pretty awful, but is it crunchy or has it softened? If the peel is still too crunchy, repeat again. This process is called blanching. I put each different peel in a separate bowl once it was blanched, then moved on to the candying part.
Meanwhile, make a simple syrup. It's simple. Equal parts sugar and water, so I used 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to start with. If that more than halfway fills your saucepan, better keep an eye on it. You only have to bring this to a boil so the sugar dissolves completely, but it will try to boil over if your pan is too small or you walk away. So don't let that happen.
the peel of 4 oranges, 4 lemons, and 4 limes, plus 2 packages of dried cherries, I made two batches of simple syrup, so 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water total. I happened to have some vanilla beans, so I tossed one in while making the simple syrup. Totally optional. I'm sure you could also throw in some spices, maybe a cinnamon stick? I'd make it plain, first.
In the larger saucepan -- because we don't want boilovers -- put about 2 cups of the simple syrup and the fruit peel of your choice. Bring to a low boil and boil for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so you don't end up with caramelized fruit peel, although I'm not sure that would be a bad thing. Having it boil over on the stove, that would be bad. When you have extracted and cooled a piece of the peel and it seems ready -- soft and a little sweet, but still fruit and not a gummy bear -- pour into the sieve over some sort of bowl or vessel to save the simple syrup (more on that later) and dump the peels to the rack which you have set over the baking pan lined with parchment paper. Or whatever rig you can assemble so the excess can drip off of the peel without making a huge mess. While it is still hot, you can sprinkle the peel with a little more sugar. Or not. Tastes vary.
For things like the dried cherries, I just poached them in some simple syrup for a few minutes to plump them up and sweeten them a little. Do this last -- the cherries will turn the simple syrup into cherry-colored and flavored simple syrup.Which leads to ....
Save the simple syrup that you drain from the fruit! You now have citrus-flavored and/or cherry-flavored simple syrup. I haven't decided what to do with it, but I think a bartender friend of mine may have some ideas.
When the candied peels and fruit have cooled, put in airtight containers or baggies and refrigerate. I chopped them before putting them in storage so I wouldn't have to do it when I was ready to use them..
I kept one batch of candied lemon peel for months, but mostly because I forgot I had it. My nephew and I found that it makes a good snack if you have leftovers after baking.