Ever watch someone peel an orange and toss the rind into the garbage, or at best into the compost pile?
For someone like me who is familiar with medieval cuisine, my mind turns to the ancient practice of candying fruit peels, roots and stems. As someone who grew up in a very rustic kitchen, where I was taught to use everything we had to its fullest extent, that predisposition fed my interest in the medieval process of utilizing even the peels of fruit to be reinvented into a delectable treat.
Once sugar became available, it changed the face of cuisines across the globe and there are many recipes that exist utilizing the fruits of the day. This includes Citron (Etrog), the ancient and original citrus fruit originating in Iran at least 2,500 years ago. Our modern lemons, limes, oranges, and other citrus fruit are hybrids of this and the other originals, including Pomelo and Mandarin oranges. All of them have been candied over the centuries since.
Add to this roots like ginger…and stems like lovage, anise, and angelica, and you have a full complement of delectibles.
Originally most likely developed as recipes for health (all recipes really are no more than prescriptions—Rx after all, being the root of the word RECIPE—they became sweet meats for the rich to enjoy…and our original fruit candy.
These recipes will help you to appreciate the time and effort spent in the medieval kitchen preparing these delights—and if you ever get to have some, the love that went into them.
There are many sources for recipes for candied fruits, spices, and roots.
Click through to read about two historic sources for these recipes in my Kitchen Stories!
These recipes reduce time by using heat, and of course that does sacrifice the exact duplication of the historic recipes above. I have done the recipes in the exact fashion above (9-day soak) and believe we are making a fair compromise.
However, feel free to follow their instruction painstakingly and share your results!
Pomelo, Mandarin, and Citron are all fruits with ancient origins, but also consider grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime (although I have not found good texture with lime peels), etc. (but not banana peels!). This is a wonderful time to use citron, as it is in season.
6 or 8-quart heavy bottomed pot (or a crock pot for initial soaking)
Baking sheet and parchment paper or wax paper
Small mesh strainer
Containers to store candied fruit (can be jelly preserve jars, plastic jars, even bags or small wooden boxes, but something that is not entirely exposed to air, or the contents will dry out)
1 dozen lemon or oranges, juice reserved for other use. If you are able to find citron (and likely you will find the Buddha’s Hand variety), please be aware that a great deal of the pith will be removed; water to cover
6-8 cups water
6 cups sugar
3 cups superfine sugar (for drying) or more
¼ cup lemon juice (to keep syrup from crystalizing)
¼ cup of rosewater or orange flower water IF desired (this replicates the Turkish recipe)
Even organic citrus peels are often treated with chemicals and pesticides, so it is important that we address this by soaking. The process I’m going to use involves heat to a boil to remove the bitterness and chemical, and speeds the process up tremendously.
We could also add the lime water soak if wanting to replicate the Ottoman recipe; this will help to remove chemicals from the peel and also will create a crisper candy. If you want to have a soft “sucket” or chewy candy, skip that process. The period Turkish instructions are very explicit and can be followed easily.
Before you have juiced your fruit, you can remove the skin easily with a vegetable peeler. Try to make long full strips. Place the peels in a container and cover with water. You will bring this to a boil and strain. Repeat for a total of 3 times. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips; any odd-shaped pieces can be chopped later to make a lovely citrus sprinkle. I also then juice the lemons to use in another application, as well as provide lemon juice to prevent the syrup from crystalizing.
To prepare your peels for candying
Either follow the explicit directions above, or using a crock pot, place peels and cover with water. Bring to a simmer for 1 hour, cover and let soak overnight, pour off and repeat 3 times. Then move to the next stage of process.
Make your syrup
Heat water in a heavy bottomed pot. Add sugar and dissolve. Stir occasionally until the syrup goes clear. Add the lemon juice (or rose water/orange flower water) and citrus peel and stir. Keep covered. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a very low simmer for about 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow to rest 15 min to 1 hour (or overnight if you wish). Strain peels. Return syrup to heat, bring to a boil. Let cool and rest overnight. Repeat. Do this up to 5 times.
Strain out peel through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. At this time, separate out small odd-shaped pieces and mince or chop. Reserve the syrup and use for drinks or other sweetening. Line a cookie sheet with sides with parchment and place 3 cups sugar. Add citrus peel strips. Shake the tray to coat the peel. Add more sugar if needed. Separate the strips from the sugar. Lay strips on trays lined with parchment. Cover with screen or cheesecloth and let dry overnight. Repeat with the chopped peel. Place in an airtight container and cover with sugar. Keep in a cool dry place.
Use the peel as a candy and the pieces to decorate cakes, add to cookies, and sprinkle on ice cream, yogurt, or your favorite cereal. You can also use any additional sugar as a “flavored” sugar for tea or other purposes.
Peel outer skin off the ginger. Slice into ¼ inch rounds (small pieces can be chopped later into garnish-sized). Place in pot with about 2 inches water above line of ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer on very low for several hours until soft (continue to add water as needed). Strain and reserve liquid for another use. Repeat process over several days if necessary. Once you can pierce easily with your fingernail, strain (always reserve water for another use! Ginger has many healthful properties) and create a simple syrup like above (6 cups water/6 cups sugar). Since I am peeling the outer layer away, I do not feel the need to dump the water.
Prepare syrup and repeat steps above to candy in the syrup. Taste the ginger and once it has become very soft and has absorbed the sugar syrup, strain (again reserving syrup for another use). Dredge in fine granulated sugar and let dry. Box or package when cool, and pack with extra sugar. This keeps indefinitely.
My how-to videos here: