Meyer Lemon Candy Happiness
There are two types of cooks. First there are those that burn through recipes and techniques, dipping their toes in many different things and gaining all different kinds of loose intuitive knowledge. Then there are those who master the art of perfecting whatever they are into at the moment. They tinker and tinker with the same dish until they have it down to a science.
I am very much not the second type. I’ll just go right ahead and say it: I have a short attention span. It’s rare that I’ll do anything twice, no matter how much I like it. Vacations, restaurants, recipes: I’m always curious about whether there’s something more fun, so repeats don’t happen often. It’s weird, if you ask me to list the best restaurant meals of my life, I’ve probably never been to any those places twice. I can’t help it!
But. Every now and then, I get presented with an opportunity to get completely OBSESSED with one thing. It usually means I have no choice, or I’m fighting a string of particularly bad luck with a dish. Right now, the stars have aligned and it’s all candied citrus peels. We have this dessert on the menu at Delancey, a meyer lemon budino. A yummy rich lemon cream that is (thankfully) being well received. The cream uses a ton of meyer lemons, but mostly just the juice. After seeing piles and piles of lemon rinds being tossed, I started hoarding them. If there was ever a time to candy citrus, then THIS was it.
You see, tucked away in my brain’s recesses was a desire to perfect the technique of candying citrus. I know it’s not exactly hard, but I seem to have a very high standard. I dream of these perfect little gummy peels, flexible and soft, evenly coated with sugar, chewy when you bite into them, and not a trace of bitterness. For something that only has 3 ingredients, I had a hard time finding a way to consistently get perfect candy. But after about 5 rounds with the peels (that would be 5 weeks worth of budino scraps), I am proud to report that I’ve finally got it. What I think is the perfect technique for candied citrus.
First I sliced up my peels to the ideal size. Then I placed them in cold water and brought that to a boil. As soon as the water boiled, I drained them out. I did this 3 times, rinsing the heat out of the peels between each blanch so that they always started in cold water (without rinsing they will warm the water up immediately). This step helps remove the bitterness from the remaining pith.
Then I made a simple syrup of equal parts (in volume) of water and granulated sugar. I made just enough to cover the peels by 1/4″ or so in the pot. I brought them to a bare simmer (not a full boil) and let them poach for 4 hours. I checked them for doneness by pulling out a peel and holding it up the window. I want to be able to see through it. Then, I take the peels off of the heat and place the whole pot in the fridge. I leave them there, covered, for 2 days. It may seem excessive, but I’m convinced that this part gives the peels the delicious gooey soft texture I like. Obviously they can be stored in their liquid (refrigerated) as long as you like, think of 2 days as a minimum soaking time.
Once they’ve soaked, I laid them out on a drying rack over a sheet pan. This is the part where I had my epiphany. Previously, I had simply left the pans out for a couple of days to dry out. After several batches of not guessing the right time (not long enough and the sugar they get tossed in will clump up and become hard and crusty; too long and they get hard and lose their gummy bear texture) and getting extremely frustrated with the humidity in Seattle, it finally hit me: put them in the oven. Duh. So I did just that. And after about 2 hours at 180 degrees, they came out perfect for tossing.
I tossed them in superfine sugar and sealed them away in a tupperware. Supposedly they’ll last a month or so like this, but they’ve never actually lasted that long in my house…