June 1, 2013

Candied Meyer Lemon and Orange Slices

Candied meyer lemon and orange slices
I love candied citrus peel- orange and ruby red grapefruit are some of my favorites- I wondered how meyer lemons would taste?  Good- sweet but with a little lemon bite.  When I embarked on this project, I thought I had 4 beautiful meyer lemons in the fridge.  When I went to the fridge to find them, I realized I had only one- my husband had used them- but- this was not upsetting, because he had used them on a delicious red snapper dish that we had had- hard to stay upset about that!  Anyhow, I took the one meyer lemon and looked to see what other citrus we had- we also had a very good looking navel orange.  Close enough!  I thought, and got started.  This takes several days- I started on Tuesday afternoon and finished Friday morning.  That may sound like a lot of work- but the 'active' time is pretty low.

Candied Meyer Lemon and Orange Slices
1 meyer lemon
1 navel orange
3 cups water
3 cups sugar (white granulated)
additional 1/3 cup sugar
a rack for drying
waxed paper

What I wanted to do, which I had never done before, was to candy whole slices instead of just the peel.  So, I cut the meyer lemon in half (lengthwise) first, then made thin slices (about 1/4 of an inch), discarding end pieces that had the stem.  For the navel orange, which was bigger, I made quarter slices, cutting the orange in half first, then in quarters, then slicing.

Something very interesting happened in our house while I was slicing the fruit.  My three year old son wanted to help, so I put him on my lap and sliced them at the kitchen table.  I gave him the job of putting the sliced fruit into the ice water bath, which was in a bowl in front of the cutting board.  (I would slice the fruit and then gently remove any seeds, then he would place them in the ice bath).  He was very interested in the orange slices, so I showed him how he could eat a few, which he did.  Why this is so interesting is that this boy currently has an incredible aversion to fruit and vegetables in their natural form- we have compensated in creative ways!  Anyhow, I was delighted to have found something he would actually eat in its natural form- and yes, I did go out shortly after that and bought more oranges!  Exciting for us :)  (Ironically, he ate pretty much anything we fed him as a baby, but has since become sort of picky.  So I take whatever small victories I can.)

My helper
Here's a picture of them after being sliced:

Sliced meyer lemons and oranges before being candied
The first thing you'll need to do is soak them in ice water for about 45 minutes.  When you drain them, you may want to keep the water, it will be nicely infused with citrus, refreshing!  Now, put the slices in a pot, I used a large round Le Creuset pot for this, and cover with cool water.  Heat on high until small bubbles have formed around the sides, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set fruit aside.  That blanching step is designed to take some of the bitterness out of bitter citrus (less of an issue for oranges, but more of an issue for lemons, limes and grapefruit).  So- if you want your lemon slices to be less bitter, repeat, but if you like a little bitterness, once is sufficient.

Fruit slices after being blanched
In the same heavy pot, combine 3 cups water and 3 cups white sugar.  Heat over low for 5 minutes to dissolve, them bring to a boil (I would recommend medium heat as opposed to high heat, this is easy to burn).  Stir occasionally, and take the temperature with a digital thermometer.  Now I know a lot of candying recipes recommend a candy thermometer, and although I've done that before, the issue I have there is that the pot heats unevenly and unless you are moving the contents around, you have hot and cool pockets.  So, I like to use a digital thermometer and move it around the pot so I get a more accurate picture of the overall temperature.  Ok- so you want this sugar syrup to reach 210 degrees fahrenheit, this maybe takes 15-20 minutes.  Now- reduce the heat to low and add the peel.  Simmer for 40 minutes (at the low heat), and then turn the burner off.  Leave this uncovered for 12 hours.  Uncovered!?  Yes- but for those of us on the squeamish side, that don't want any unwelcome visitors to the pot, put a colander over it (you'll feel better).

Colander over the pot
The next morning (after 12 hours), heat again- but start the heat out at medium low- it's easy to burn this if you're not cautious.  Heat again until the temperature is 215-220 degrees fahrenheit- again using the digital thermometer in multiple places in the pot.  Let it sit another 12 hours until the evening.

That evening, 1 full day since you started, heat it again, starting out medium low, and boil until the syrup reaches 230 degrees fahrenheit.  So- this step I had a bit of a problem, I turned the burner on and forgot about it for a while- maybe 45 minutes.  So- my temperature was more like 235 and even 240 in some spots, but it turned out ok- only lost a few pieces because they were too hard.  So, don't forget about it like I did!  So- turn off the heat again, after you've reached the desired temperature, and let it stand for another 12 hours, cover it if you would like.

Now- Thursday morning (if you started Tuesday evening), heat the syrup at low until it's liquefied enough to remove the pieces with tongs and place them gently on a rack.  If you have a rack that fits over a cookie sheet, that's ideal, because the pieces will drip syrup and it's probably easier to clean the cookie sheet than your counter- you can also place waxed or parchment paper below and then just throw it out.

Candied Meyer lemon and orange slices on drying rack
Let the pieces dry on the rack for 24 hours (yes, seriously!)  They will be really sticky at first and then less sticky- but still sticky.  Try to prevent passing toddlers from eating too many.

Now- as carefully as you can, remove them from the rack (the internal parts of the slice are delicate, and you want them to retain their shape as much as possible).  On a plate, place the 1/3 cup of sugar and roll each slice in the sugar until fully coated.  Place on waxed paper and allow to dry for an additional 6 hours.

Candied citrus slices being rolled in sugar
After they have dried coated in sugar for 6 hours, place in an airtight container (using levels of waxed paper to separate them) and store in a cool dry place.  You'll notice the orange slices are delicious and very sweet and the meyer lemon slices are delicious but still retain a very lemon taste- you can cut the lemon pieces smaller if you'd like it less bitter.  My son stole two of these off the counter when they were done.

Candied citrus slices being stored with waxed paper
We once had a dinner party where we put a small plate of homemade candied citrus on the table to enjoy with espresso and after dinner drinks.  You can do that- or you can use these in other desserts- dress up a scoop of ice cream with a slice of orange or chop up a lemon slice and use that- also would be great on a piece of this chocolate cake:  Our 'Weekend Cake' I recently made this cake for a friend celebrating a birthday and thought to myself...  'I want this and candied citrus!'

Enjoy the start to summer!  We have been enjoying warmer weather here in the northeast!

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