using the whole animal: grapefruit edition

I’ve recently circled back to an old project. Some time ago, presented with the knowledge that my mother loves those orange slice candies you can buy in any grocery store aisle, I learned to make candied orange peels. They were a total hit and saved me during one of my first Christmases as a starving student.

As a follow up, I bought a bunch of Meyer lemons at Whole Paycheck, juiced the insides into ice-cube trays for future use and candied the peels. It cemented my place in the hierarchy of a law firm full of sugar fiends. Someday, I vowed, I would do candied grapefruits. It seemed like the destined application of the technique, since the bitterness of grapefruit would cut the candy-aisle sweetness of candied peels.

Cut to last week: my boy juiced 7 grapefruits for the Mother’s Ruin Punch recipe that made us so popular at New Year’s, in preparation for his birthday bash. Staring at 7 grapefruits worth of peels in the sink, destined for the garbage can, what’s a girl to do?

Anyway, they’re lovely and since I have 6 zip-top baggies worth that I’ve been foisting on unsuspecting friends and colleagues, I’ve had to go through another round of explanations. Yes, you can candy grapefruit peels. Yes, you should try one (because getting somebody to willingly ingest fruit peel for the first time is sometimes a hard sell — but only the first time). A colleague asked for the recipe, and promised she would make orange peels this weekend. Then I remembered why I started posting in this space: to give friends and colleagues access to the exact techniques and recipes we’ve been using, to avoid replication of research.

Here’s the deal:

Get citrus. Take out the fruit on the inside. Do a cursory job of removing the pith with a spoon — say 30 seconds per fruit (don’t take 5 hours removing all the white stuff like some people on the internet will tell you — this is about making lovely candy out of waste product). Boil water, dump in peels, let boil for five minutes, then dump through a colander in the sink. Repeat 3 times for oranges or lemons, 6 times for grapefruit (it’s more bitter). Make a sugar syrup of equal parts sugar and water (7 grapefruits takes 4 cups of each, but that’s a large load). Get the mixture to a simmer, dump in peels and set a timer for 1 hour. At 1 hour, if the syrup doesn’t look like it has boiled away, you can crank the heat to evaporate the water and make more chewy confections, or you can simply fish out the peels with a pair of tongs for peels that are a moister and reminiscent of gummy worms. Either way, dredge the peels in sugar, roll them around, and then let dry for a few hours, preferably on a cooling rack set over parchment or tinfoil (for easier cleanup).

This is a long process, but it’s one that I save for a Saturday at home, with lots of laundry to do or reading to finish, since it doesn’t require a lot of hands-on maintenance. Most of the time is taken up waiting for water to boil, sugar syrup to penetrate the peels, or the peels to dry.

Here’s a recipe, if you feel you really need one.