Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The peel sessions

I love a complicated, multi-stage recipe. For example, I adore making Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Three Dishes from One Goose." Or, as I like to call it, "Goosapalooza."

I've embarked on another big, complex project. In a couple of weeks I'm going to make fruitcake. Not the kind everybody jokes about and uses as a doorstop, but the real kind, soaked in good liquor and brimming with real, honest fruit. Possibly chocolate. It will need a month to soak in liquor so it will be ready for Christmas.

I will not be buying any of that weird technicolor candied fruit they sell at the grocery store at this time of year. My fruitcake will include dried cherries, raisins, and the homemade candied fruit peel you see here. I made it especially for the occasion.

On the left is grapefruit peel; on the right is tangerine. Against the advice of the recipe, I cooked them together. They still came out wonderful. If you're planning on using them as straight-up candy, though, you may want to keep them separate so the flavors don't blend even the slightest bit.

Here's how it's done:


Cut the peels off 3 large grapefruits or 5 oranges or tangerines (or a combination). Leave the white pith on. Julienne the peels.

Place the peels in a large pot and pour boiling water over them. Simmer 5 minutes. Drain well. Repeat this sequence 4 more times (yes, really). This removes the bitterness.

Set the peels aside for a moment and combine 1 cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, and 1 tsp. powdered ginger in the pot. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Add the peels and simmer, partially covered, 1 hour or until the peels are translucent and soft. Stir occasionally.

Lay the peels out, not touching each other, on wax paper until they are cool. Dust well with additional sugar. After an hour or two, scrape them off the wax paper and roll them in sugar on all sides. Spread the peels out again.

Continue to air-dry them for several hours, then pack in an airtight container. Keeps almost indefinitely.