You’ve probably seen them in the supermarket around the holidays: containers filled with clumps of a mysterious neon-colored sticky substance. Although this preservative-laden, chemically colored product is labeled candied orange or lemon peel, it bears as much resemblance to the real thing as Cheese Whiz does to farmhouse Cheddar. And there’s a good reason for that: According to Regan Daley in her book In the Sweet Kitchen, most candied peel sold in this country is made from citron, a large, sour, knobbly citrus fruit that is grown almost exclusively to make commercial candied peel. The result, says Daley, is a harsh, acrid product with enough preservatives that it “would probably outlast the most stubborn fruitcake.” Sure, you can buy artisanal candied citrus at European-style candy stores and pastry shops, but be prepared to pay dearly for it: At New York’s super-luxe chocolate shop Michel Cluizel, a half-pound of candied orange peel costs a whopping $49.
The good news is that making your own candied peel—using only the best organic ingredients, of course—couldn’t be easier or more inexpensive. Yes, you’ll need to set aside a little time for this project, but I can guarantee you’ll end up with candied peel that has wonderfully concentrated fruit flavor, enveloped in just a dusting or two of sugar. And it’s even more heavenly when dipped in chocolate.
Once you’ve made a batch, you’ll find there’s so much you can do with candied peel. It is delicious chopped and sprinkled atop sweet treats, from cupcakes to ice cream to waffles, and it makes the perfect hostess or holiday gift.
Before you start, you’ll need to assemble a candied-peel tool kit that includes: