It is my favorite time of the year, which I am sure has been said and sung about a zillion times in the past, however it really is my favorite time of the year. Generally the air has gone from crisp to chilly, the “Uggs” are awaken for a long awaited appearance, the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and citrus is in the air. That is how the idea of candying a whole citrus fruits began, I yearly create candy zest from citrus fruit for recipes and gifts. This year I wanted to try an entire citrus fruit, sounds easy right? Actually NO.. there is very little information on the method for whole candied citrus fruits or any whole large fruit. Unless you want to purchase the fruit already candied, which I did not, I wanted to candy the fruit myself!
After looking for hours on the subject, talking to tons of bakeries and Chocolate tiers we know, finding very little information on the matter. We finally, in a history book written in the year 1555, found some information. The book was by Nostradamus, he wrote one of the most remarkable French works on candy-making: “Treatise on Beauty Secrets and Preserves”. Sadly I do not own the book, but was able to find about minute worth of information.” The secret of the candying process is simple, but delicate : it consists of slowly penetrating the fruit with sugar, in several consecutive baths, so that the fruit is preserved without loosing its form, its colour, or its savour. This tradition has come down through the centuries, from the Renaissance to the present.” Besides that small quote I was unable, without owning the book, to inquire more knowledge.
We did find a 2 minute video, in french, quickly showing a confit factory candying every fruit imaginable, but alas they were using machines and vats of product. Believe or not Sydney and I began a journey of trial and error, multitudes of error, of candying whole citrus or confit. Fruit confit consists of a processes of removing all the water in the fruit and replacing it with sugar. In the middle ages when fruit was sparse confit was a miracle for the people; they could preserve their very precious fruit up to 3 to 4 months. Today we consider a whole candied fruit to be a delicacy and a wonderful gift for the holidays. However large candied fruit can be considerably expensive, with an abundance of patience it is possible to implement this method in your own kitchen. I will admit there were many batches that did not make the cut, I will try and share the mistakes along with the one success we had. Even the batches that did not make the grade were eaten or used in other recipes, the mistakes were delicious.
Since we had planned on preparing candied citrus zest, our first thought was to use the method of candying the whole fruit with same steps as one would use for candying fruit slices minus the rind. In our favor we had yet dove into any long extensive research, just our wacky common sense.
Sydney and I peeled with great caution, as not to have any pith on the strips, and then cut the peel into thin strips. The strips were blanched for 1 to 2 minutes, enough time to remove the bitterness without loosing the vibrant beautiful color. The water must start cool and boil with the strips of zest in the pot. The same procedure was used with the naked citrus also, after removing the white pith from the flesh with a VERY sharp pairing knife.
With a slotted spoon the strips and naked fruit were removed from their pots of boiling water and plunged into two separate ice baths, to stop the cooking processes and keep the color. Again using a slotted spoon careful lay the zest and fruit onto a clean towel and let cool down. Sugar, corn syrup, and water were brought to a boil (in two separate pots), at this point we added the zest to one pot and the “naked” fruit to the other. The heat is reduced to low, the syrup should remain at “a kiss of a simmer” and allow the citrus to cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the syrup has evaporated and the zest appears transparent. The syrup should remain clear through out the entire simmering process, do not let it brown or caramelize. When the zest has finished it’s spa bath it is ready to be transfer to a sheet of parchment paper, and while still quite warm separate the candied strips of zest, transfer to a cooling rack for about 1 hour, and roll in sanding sugar. The syrup can be saved for using as perfumed simple syrup!
The candied zest worked out perfectly, most likely because I make it yearly and I know what I am doing (I admit that does help some), the candied naked fruit tasted delicious, however was not the most attractive looking fruit. So being the stubborn perfectionist that I am, I looked at Sydney as she proclaimed “we are doing the whole citrus again” (she knows me so well).
Before I continue with the method we finally settled on, after trying more times than I care to tell, I will give you our recipe for candied citrus zest
Candied Citrus Peel
Citrus of choice, at least 3, our choice was 2 oranges (cara cara & navel), lemon and lime
296 grams/ 1 ¼ cup water
300 grams/ 1 ½ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, optional
100 grams/ 1/2-cup sanding sugar
1 cutting board
1 slotted spoon
1 jelly roll pan or cookie sheet
1 cooling rack
Use a peeler to remove the zest from the citrus. Try to remove as little of the fleshy white pith as possible. Slice the citrus peel.
Carefully cut the citrus peel into long, thin slivers. You can cut into larger strips, but it will take longer to cook.
Put the cut strips into a saucepan of cold water and bring it to the boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes to remove some of the peel’s bitterness then strain with a sieve. Repeat one or two more times, without loosing the color of the zest. The last blanching gently dry the zest on a paper towel before proceeding to the next step.
Slice along the length of the vanilla bean without cutting all the way through (optional). Then carefully open it up and scrape out the pulp with the blade of the knife. Place both the bean and the pulp into a saucepan of syrup.
Add 297 grams of water and 300 grams sugar (1 1/4 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium pot).
Place water, sugar, vanilla pulp, vanilla skin in the saucepan on a high heat and swirl to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and add in the citrus peels. Swirl and turn down the heat. The heat should register on candy thermometer at 118º C/235ºF, the thread stage.
Simmer in the syrup for approximately 15 minutes, until soft and translucent. There should be very little syrup left in the pan. Pour the candied peels onto a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper, while still warm transfer the peels to wire rack, separating the pieces as needed.
Let peels dry 1 hour. Toss with 100 grams/½-cup of sanding sugar to coat, you can use granulated sugar, I just love how the sanding sugar sparkles.
It is now ready to serve.
Use it to decorate cakes or any desserts, dip in chocolate , or eat as is. Stored in a sealed container, it will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
The method and recipe for candied whole citrus fruit or fruit I am going give, for the record it is loosely a recipe, because the recipe can change with your needs and amount of fruit. I am going to do my best to explain what we learned through trial and error, plus reading a few of sydney’s college chemistry books, on preparing candied whole fruit. Any fruit can be candied, from watermelon, pineapple, to cherries, citrus and plums. The chemistry behind persevering the fruit as I stated in the beginning of the blog is confit, depending on the size of fruit will determine how long the entire process will be. The orange we candied took a little more than 24 hours, but should have cooked longer by about 4 hours.
On Monday morning early we began to experiment again (I believe this was our 5th attempt of a whole citrus candy fruit). It started with submerging the citrus in scolding hot water for 2 minutes 45 seconds, just to blanch them, quickly, but carefully remove each citrus with a slotted spoon and immerse in an ice bath for 1 minute. repeat this processes about four time. (Each time you blanch and cool the water must be new and clean). Now it is time to start the sugar water, this is a long, delicate, but easy procedure of concentrating the syrup with more sugar each time. While the first pot of sugar and water are dissolving and coming to a thread stage, grab metal skewers (wooden ones are not up for the task at hand) begin to poke wholes all around the fruit.
Once the syrups temperature is at a registered 118º C/235º F on a candy thermometer carefully with your slotted spoon place the citrus in the syrup. Keeping the syrup at the thread stage and not letting the syrup change in color cook for about 1.5 hours, turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool down with fruit resting inside the pan of syrup. This process continues though out the day creating thicker syrup with more sugar and less water, and adding 80 grams/1/4-cup corn syrup. As I promised I am sharing our recipe, but I did not take my orange as far as I should have to achieve transparency. The proper look for the fruits outside is to be transparent. I am in the process of making more and will post the rest of the pictures soon. I will tell say the orange was mighty tasty as is, but I am a perfectionist and i need to achieve full transparency. In fact it is excruciating for me to post this blog and have the fruit look good, but not perfect, however due to the long processing time I wanted to share this recipe as early in the holiday season as I could.
Candied Whole Orange learn how to candy a whole orange or citron in completely detail and step by step.