Candied or preserved citrus fruits were imported into England as early as the 15th century. They were somewhat of a status symbol and only appeared on the tables of the rich. While today we usually use the fruit as an ingredient for cakes, biscuits and puddings, in the past these delightful confections were eaten whole as ‘wet suckets’—something they still do today in Greece, where they serve ‘glyka tou koutaliou’ or ‘spoon sweets’. The fruit is preserved in sugar syrup and served in a spoon as a gesture of hospitality.
Candied citrus is made by slowly boiling the fruit in water and sugar over several days, until the syrup sets and the water in the fruit is replaced by sugar which will preserve it.
1kg cedron, citron or etrog peel, weighed with the flesh removed
3 litres water
1½kg caster sugar
3 tbsp corn syrup
Cover the peel with water in a large wide pan (a jam kettle if you have it) and poach until it becomes translucent, which will take 30-45 mins.
Carefully remove the peels from the pan and leave to cool.
In the same pan, combine the 3 litres water, sugar and syrup and bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. You can omit the syrup but adding it will prevent your syrup from crystallising.
Carefully place the fruit in the sugar water and simmer for 15 mins. The water should just tremble, not bubble. Leave to cool overnight.
The next day, bring the peels to a simmer again for 15 mins and leave to cool overnight. Repeat this a further 5 times, 6 if your peels are thicker than the ones you see pictured here.
After the 5th day, bring the peels to a boil until the temperature reaches 115C and leave to cool overnight.
The next day, prepare a tray by lining it with baking parchment and placing a wire rack on top. Carefully lift the peels from the now thickened syrup and place them on the wire rack to dry.
When dry, wrap in parchment paper and keep in an airtight container or sterilised jar.
If you wish your candied peel to stay wet and succulent, bring the sugar syrup back to a boil and place some or all of the peels in a preserving jar which you have sterilised. Now pour the syrup over the peels and close the jar. To keep this for a while—you need to keep this jar in the fridge and boil the sugar syrup from time to time and then pour it back onto the fruit, to prevent fermentation.
You can use this method to candy orange peel as well. Just steep the orange peels overnight in water and discard the water the next day. This is to remove some of the bitterness. If you are using Sevilles, you might leave the peels in the water for 2 days.
Recipe and images: Regula Ysewijn