Sunday, December 26, 2010

Recipes for Seasonal Food Finds

Winter's chill always sends me to the kitchen for extended periods. Here is a great idea for getting the most out of the abundance of citrus fruit available at this time of year:

Candied Citrus Peel

Candy that's good for you! You can candy the peel from any citrus fruit. If you mix the different peels in the same pot, however, the flavor of the finished product will be a mixture, too. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove strips of peel from any citrus fruit. You should remove some, but not all, of the white pith beneath the colorful peel. Or, if the peeling comes off easily, as with tangerines and clementines, use the peel as is.

Left to right: orange peel with demerarra sugar, lemon peel with granulated sugar, orange peel with confectioner's sugar.
After peeling the fruits, you can squeeze out the juice and freeze it for later use. Just place the juice in an ice cube tray, freeze, then turn out the cubes into a plastic freezer container. (It helps if you know the capacity, in teaspoons, of each cube. Then, you will know how many to use in recipes later.)

Cut the peel into strips about one quarter inch wide. Drop them into a measuring cup, packing loosely. For each cup, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a pot. Drop in the strips of peel. When the water returns to a boil, start timing. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain, discarding the water. Repeat this process 3 times. Drain the peel well and rinse under the tap.

Note: Boiling for 5 minutes each time produces a slightly bitter peel. If you want to eliminate all bitterness, increase the blanching time. Ten minutes per blanching should be the maximum, however.

For each cup of peel that you began with, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water in the same pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring occassionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the peel and stir to combine. Cook uncovered over low heat at a slow simmer until all but a tablespoon of the syrup has been absorbed by the peel. Remove from heat. Using tongs or a fork, remove the candied peel to a plate well sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Roll the pieces in the sugar and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool and dry at room temperature for two hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Try using different types of sugar to vary the finished product. Instead of confectioner's sugar, use granulated, turbinado, or demerarra sugar. For a truly scrumptious confection, choose large, perfect pieces of candied peel and dip them in melted chocolate. Place on a rack to cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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