My bumper crop of lemons this year has me begging the question: am I in Sorrento or Cannara (thanks global warming!)?? Well, I'm definitely not in Sorrento.... but that doesn't mean I can't do lots of fun things with the abundance of citrus fruits right now. Obviously, the fruit I use comes from southern Italy, in particular from Sicily. Since we are expecting a new addition to our family (any minute now!), I won't be making my annual pilgrimage to Verona
to get my favorite candied fruits to make my Easter Pastiera
(yes, I'm already thinking about Easter lunch); so I decided to take a stab at making my own candied citrus peels - time consuming
, but simple. I also made a citrus marmellata and was left with some flavored simple syrups as a by product from my peels to use in the future.
But first, the peels....
I used orange and citron. Citron
, or cedro
in Italian, is the lemon's big, lumpy, bumpy cousin. It contains more rind than actual fruit, which here we eat as a dessert, thinly sliced and sprinkled with sugar. To make the candied citron peels, I first sliced them thinly, removing the pulp (which I put aside). Then I put the rinds under salt for 24 hours (much as you would do for an eggplant to remove excess liquid). The next day I rinsed, and rinsed.... and rinsed again the rinds, about 15 times in total, until I couldn't taste any more salt. I then dropped them in simmering water for about 10 minutes to remove any final traces of salt, layed them flat on a towel and let dry for 12 hours. Now for the candying process: make a simple syrup of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, bring to a boil, pour over the citron rinds, and let sit for 24 hours, making sure that the rinds are completely covered with syrup. The next day, pour off the syrup back into a pot, bring to a boil and pour back over the rinds. Repeat this process 2 or 3 more times until the rinds have lost their bitterness and are completely transparent. Then drain them (reserve the flavored syrup for another use) and arrange them in a single layer on a wire rack for 24 hours. Then roll them in granulated sugar and let dry on the racks another 24-48 hours. Conserve them in glass jars or cryovac.
For the orange rinds, I removed all of the pulp (which I set aside for marmellata) and sliced them into wedges. I then let them soak for 2 days in water, changing it frequently to remove some of the bitterness. I then placed the rinds in a pot and covered them with simple syurp (as above) and brought to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes and then turn off and let the rinds soak for about 24 hours. The next day bring everything back to a boil (adding more simple syrup if necessary) and let sit for another 24 hours. Repeat this process another 2-3 times until most of the bitterness is gone. Then drain and follow the same final process as above. They can also be dipped in dark chocolate instead of rolled in sugar.
Well, now that I have taken care of the rinds, I have a lot citrus pulp to deal with! I made a marmellata (jam), from Tarocco oranges, which are like a semi-blood orange. I also threw in the pulp from my citrons and the last few mandarin oranges I had sitting around the house. I cut all of the pulp into chunks, weighed it and then put it into a pot with half as much sugar (ie. 2 kilos of fruit, 1 kilo sugar). I bring this mixture to a boil and let cook for about 10 minutes. I then pass everything through a food mill. There will be a fair amount of 'pulp waste', but this makes for a clearer, smoother jam. The passed fruit mixture goes back into the pot to cook until it becomes dense with "shoulders" when spooned onto a frozen plate. In the meantime, I had taken the zests (no white pith) from a few oranges and boiled them in water (changing water every time) 3 times. Then I cut the zests up finely and put into the cooking marmellata - this gives a bitter edge to the marmellata - something Italians look for in a good orange jam. Pour hot jam into sterilized glass jars, screw on caps, turn upside down and your done!
My by-product from all of this was the citrus flavored syrups which can be used in cocktails or brushed onto cakes or anything fun you can come up with.
After all of this, your house will smell like a citrus grove in Sicily... hence the Citra-therapy!