This recipe is super easy. The peels taste just like sweet lemon drops. You’ll be certain to have your kitchen stocked with a jar or two of these from now on—ready to grab for that upcoming day hike or camping trip. You may love them plain, with only a dusting of sugar, but in the end you may opt to dip your peels in chocolate for extra yumminess. Look out! These peels disappear fast!
5 organic, un-waxed thick-skinned lemons (or 5 limes, 2 oranges, or 1 large grapefruit)
2 cups sugar
¾ tsp cream of tartar
Semisweet chocolate (optional)
- Wash the lemons and slice off both ends with a knife.
- Make 4 equally spaced lengthwise slices just through the peel of each lemon.
- With your fingers, pry each section of peel off each lemon, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible.
- In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a simmer.
- Add the peels to the simmering water. Simmer for 2 minutes and strain with a colander.
- Rinse the peels with fresh water and wash out the pan with soap and water.
- Repeat 2 more times, each time using fresh water to rinse peels and saucepan, and fresh cold water to refill saucepan.
- The pith of the fruit has a bitter taste. If the peels are very thick, use a spoon or butter knife to scrape off most of the pith from the peel. This should rid the peels of bitterness. But don’t remove all the pith from the peels—it will provide some structure and tastiness.
- Combine 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and ¾ tsp cream of tartar. Slowly bring to a simmer, whisking often. The sugar syrup should be clear before it reaches a simmer. Be careful—this liquid is hot!
- Add the peels to the sugar syrup (add enough water to completely cover the peels) and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the mixture forms a thick syrup and the peels are translucent and tender. The temperature should be about 230 degrees.
- To test for doneness, lift a peel slice from the syrup with a slotted spoon, let it cool slightly and then sample. If you can easily bite through the peel, it’s done. If not, continue simmering peels until tender. If the syrup becomes too thick, add additional water.
- Turn off heat, gently remove peels from the sugar syrup with slotted spoon and lay separately on a wire rack set on an edged baking sheet. Watch out! The peels will be very hot.
- Once cooled, cut each peel into thin strips (no wider than ¼ inch). These can be great knife practice for smallish hands, but be sure to work carefully. Set peels separately on a clean wire rack to dry overnight.
- A few pieces at a time, toss each peel in a sugar-filled bowl to coat.
- Store in an airtight container.
Candied peels are best used at least two days after you’ve made them—they won’t have dried sufficiently if used right away. After no longer gooey to the touch, they should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container. They will last several weeks (assuming they are not gobbled up before then by unicorns).
And try this:
- Dip peel ends in thinned royal icing or tempered chocolate and place on parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
- For orange peels, try adding ground ginger or nutmeg to the sugar.
- Chopped, the candied peels may be used as a topping to pudding, custard, ice cream, pie, fresh granola or cookies.
- Remaining citrus and cooled liquid and may be used as simple syrup to make amazing homemade lemonade Just add juice of 5 lemons (leftover from the above recipe) and water to taste and refrigerate.
- Or, on the eve an especially long day, concoct a comforting cocktail. Cool the remaining citrus and liquid, and serve with your spirit of choice.
Note: I originally published a version of this (sans above cocktail tip, of course) in Whip Up’s Action Pack Magazine for kids (Issue 6). Chock full of quality projects for creative curious kids who love to do stuff, Action Pack is a downloadable high-quality ad-free e-magazine by Kathreen Ricketson. Diagrams and photos illustrate each boredom-busting step-by-step kid-friendly project—make a lemon battery, a citric acid fizz popper, cinnamon sticks wooden jewelry and handmade chalk. For more hands-on projects like this one, click HERE.