A year ago, I wrote about the encroaching winter nights and the disappearing hours of sunlight. At the end of Autumn this year, we are once again closing our doors early in the evening and settling down in front of the warmth of our newly-installed woodburning stove.
From Devali, Ramadan, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas and the early European traditions of the Winter Solstice, people in Northern parts have long marked the shortest day. Although we no longer fear that the sun will disappear forever unless we succeed in persuading the gods to return it to the earth, we still celebrate the new beginnings or ‘birth’ of the sun at the winter solstice by lighting candles in the darkness and bringing evergreens and fruits into our homes as reminders of the coming Spring.
The theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday is very in tune with these Seasons of Light. Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook has asked us to celebrate all that glitters by making eye-catching, light-reflecting, irresistibly- dazzling, sweet creations. For my own contribution, I’d like to offer a recipe for candied peel with additional details this year on the easiest way I’ve found (so far) to separate the peel from the pith.
This year, I collected together an assortment of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits. Slicing these in half across their middles and juicing them was the easiest part of the task. The freshly-squeezed orange juice was quickly devoured by M and T. I still have to find takers for the lemon, lime and grapefruit juice mixture!
I’ve made my own candied peel for three consecutive years now. In the first year, I gave most of the spoons and knives in my kitchen drawer a turn at attempting to separate the peel from the pith. I distinctly lacked the necessary technique and was lucky to be left with sufficient peel for candying after my rather heavy-handed dissection of the fruits. Last year, I gained a little in experience and realised that a pointed teaspoon was the most effective tool for the job. This year, I discovered that the larger grapefruits and oranges are easier to prepare than the smaller lemons. As well as being the smallest fruits, limes also turned out to be the most unwilling to release their peel from their pith.
The trick seems to be to first prise away the juicy inner part from the skins (I found this easier when I first divided each fruit portion further into quarters and also cut out the knobbly, ‘tummy button’ bits):
You can then use the pointed teaspoon (curved side upwards) to gently scrape away the remaining pith and reveal the underside of the dots on the fruit’s surface. It feels very much like approaching zesting from the position of being inside rather than outside the fruit!
Once you get this far, it really is the easiest thing in the world to boil the peel until it becomes translucent and to cut it into strips ready for candying in a sugary syrup (full details of this procedure are here).
Anyone who believes (as I used to believe) that candied peel is the most disgusting thing ever, please do try some of your own. The difference between most shop-bought and homemade candied peel is quite extraordinary – instead of a soapy aftertaste, you’ll experience miniature explosions of exquisite citrus tang. I hope that you’d then agree with me that these sparkling jewels are a true celebration of all that glitters!