It is citrus season in California. That means it is time to make candied lemon peel in my house.
Even though I live in the boonies, I can hop in the car and "find me" some perfect meyer lemons this time of year. I don't buy just 2 or 3 lemons. I buy loads of them.
The first thing I do, after recuperating from my drive to get them is I admire them, smell them, pierce their golden skins with my thumb nail and find myself lost in the intoxicating aroma. It is better than a kiss.
Then I get to work.
I wash them with luke warm water, rubbing the lemons as I go, making sure each one is nice and clean. While I am at it, I wash all of the ice cube trays that I keep in the storage pantry. Since I have an automatic ice maker in my fridge, I don't use these that often. A quick rinse is called for in case a little dust has collected.
Next, I cut them in half
... again I take in their aroma. I used to have a prolific meyer lemon tree in my garden when I lived in Florida. The sweet scent it gave off was totally magical, but the flavor was simply not as pronounced as these little meyer lemons that we get from California. I am envious of all those with California residency. On occasion, in the hire end markets I travel to, I will find equally good meyer lemons from New Zealand, yum. This year I even saw a batch come from Chile. When California, though, goes into citrus mode, we have a plethora available to us and I fill the produce bags with as many as I can afford.
Next up, I juice them.
I pour all the juice into the ice cube trays and put them in the freezer. When they are all frozen I pop out the cubes into a bag that I keep in the freezer. When I am cooking or need lemon juice for lemonade, I just grab from that bag. When we lived on the boat, I had to prepare lemons like this because there were areas that didn't have good lemons, or any lemons at all for that matter. We used to have a locker type freezer under the bunk in the pilot house. Whenever the weather was bad, and we both had to be on watch, one of us would catnap on that bunk. Every time I lay on that bunk, I used to think of the treasure trove of goodies that were in the freezer beneath me. Let's get on with it.
When you juice the lemons, juice them "hard", meaning go as far as you can towards the peel. The less of the white stuff, the sweeter your candied lemon peel will turn out.
Next. Put the peels in a big pot of cold water and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn your heat source down to a simmer, you want to simmer the lemon peel (or any other citrus peel) until it is nice and tender ... gushy almost ... to were you can easily pierce the peel with the tip of a sharp knife.
Once your lemon peels have reached that stage, drain them in a colander and run them under cool water. Once they are cool enough to handle take a spoon and scrape out any of the white pith that remains and has come loose from the peel.
You will have a lot of pith scooped out by the time you are done with all the lemon peels. I am always surprised by how much comes out. Don't worry if your lemon peel begins to tear, or even if it tears completely. It will all be good in the end.
Once you have scooped them all, cut the lemon peels into strips. How long, and how wide, is irrelevant. Put them in a pot with a two to one ratio of sugar to water. For all these lemons I used 4 cups of sugar, to 2 cups of water. Bring it all to a boil on medium heat.
Once the peel starts to look see-through, raise the heat to high, making the sugar syrup reach 230°, also called thread stage (when you pull the spoon from the pot, it creates a thread that doesn't fall off the spoon.) I don't get too hung up on the actual temperature, but I put this photo in for those of you who HAVE to be precise. Basically, what you want to see is a whole lot of bubbling going on.
Once you get the sugar to that stage, it means the sugar will adhere to the little pieces of lemon peel and give it a nice "chew". Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the hot sugar and place them on a cooling rack that is placed over a piece of parchment paper. The paper will catch the drips so it doesn't make a huge mess on your counter. When I do a huge batch, I place the parchment (and rack) on a cookie sheet (tray), that way I can move all the trays around my kitchen, making room for more trays, or making room to make the next meal that my family needs.
They might stick together as they cool. Don't fret. Mine always do. I just pick them apart once they have cooled down.
Once they cool you have a decision to make.
Gently toss them in a bowl of sugar or not. Supposedly this helps keep the little pieces from sticking to each other. I think the extra sugar is over-kill.
Place the sugar syrup you have left into a mason jar. Keep it in the fridge. This post is getting a little photo heavy, but on my next post I will show you what to do with that syrup. Stay tuned.
Ok - I gotta go get the girls from school. One last photo before I go.
Trust me, these are well worth the effort.