Lemon Party! (Part 1)

June 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Oh lemons.  You are the most perfect of all citrus.  You can be oh so sweet, face squinchingly tart, and perfectly savory.  So many facets to lemons, all of them delicious.  But the most perfect of all lemons, the epitome of lemony goodness, is the Meyer lemon.

Smaller, smoother, and more delicate than the traditional knobbly lemons usually seen in the market, the Meyer is perfect for all of your lemon needs.  Candied peel?  Oh yeah.  Lemon curd?  Why not?  Stuffing inside roast chicken?  Duh.  Straight up eating slices to wow your friends?  Only when intoxicated.  Meyers are sill lemons, after all.

However, the destiny of this particular bag of Meyers fulfilled only the first two of that short list.

Have y’all ever candied anything?  It can be difficult and scary.  And hot.  Very, very hot.  Over boiling point hot.  Do be careful.  But do not be afraid!  It is my belief that candying citrus peel is an easy (and fairly tasty) way to dip one’s toe into the world of candy making.

The recipe I use to candy citrus peel is simple.  You only need three ingredients.  Citrus, water, and sugar.  It is the proportions that matter.  And to that end, I have turned to one Alice Waters, and her book The Art of Simple Food.

Candied Meyer Lemon Peel

8 lemons*, washed, halved, and juiced**

4 C sugar + 1 1/2 C for tossing

2 C water + more for boiling the peel

Put your juiced lemon halves in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once, the water is at a rapid boil, reduce the heat, and keep the water just simmering until the lemon peel is tender to a paring knife.  Drain off the boiling water, and allow the lemons to cool slightly, until you can’t burn your hands while holding them.

Pre-scooped lemons

Mmmm, Meyer lemons…

Scoop out as much of the white pithy part as possible.  It’s bitter.  You do not want to eat it.  Trust me.

Slice the remaining peel into thin strips of even width.  Return them to the saucepan.  Add in the 4 C sugar and 2 C water, put the stove back to medium (I hope you turned it off while you were slicing.  Nobody likes an unnecessary kitchen fire) and stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves into a thick syrup.  Get it simmering.  Also, if you have a candy/deep fry thermometer, the time to find it would be now.  Simmer the syrup until the peel looks translucent.  Crank up the heat, and continue cooking until the syrup is at the “thread stage” (it’ll form a thread when dripping off the spoon) and at 230 F.

Let it cool down some.  Seriously.  You do not want to be touching that lemon peel right now.

Fish the peel out of its syrupy bath and spread the strips out on cooling racks that are situated above baking sheets that have been covered in parchment paper or foil.  Do not be lazy with this.  Y’all do not want to be scraping lemon syrup off every flat surface of your home.

"Dry" candied peel

Let it dry overnight.  I know, I know, I should’ve said at the outset that this is a two day project.  But I have done it in a span of 24 hours.  I do not recommend it, unless you like getting up early, have nothing else to do that day, or actually enjoy doing dishes.

Once the peel is dry (meaning that it’s not dripping syrup, and is only rather sticky, as opposed to oh-my-sweet-jesus-there-is-lemon-syrup-all-up-in-my-hair sticky) get out a large, wide bowl.  Put about 1 1/2 C sugar in it.  Add in some of the lemon peel.  Not all of it at once.  About a quarter of it.  Toss the bits of peel around in the sugar until they are entirely coated, and make sure that every piece is an individual and there’s no Siamese Twin action going on.  Repeat until all the lemon peel is coated in sugar.

It is finished.  Put it in a fancy container.  Wow your friends with your candy-making exploits.  Also, do eat some yourself.

Or you can put it in a plastic bag to give to your friends. Just keep it classy.

*Y’all are going to want to be using organic lemons for this.  You will be eating the peel.  Which is where all the pesticides and chemicals like to hang out.  If you can’t find organic, scrub the lemons well with a veggie brush, like the kind you use to scrub potatoes and mushrooms.

**Do not, for the love of all things sacred, throw out the juice.  The possibilities are endless: salad dressing, lemonade, marinade, ceviche, and of course lemon curd, which will be discussed at a later date.

Side note:  Y’all can use these proportions for other citrus as well.  Do it with orange rind, dip the finished product in chocolate, let it harden, and you have orangettes.  Which are quite fancy.  Do feel snooty if you show up to a party with them.  Tell folks that it’s French.

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