Pascale's Kitchen: Candied citrus peels

This year, instead of throwing away the peels after we eat the fruit, I decided to make candied peels, which can be used to adorn cakes, or be eaten alone as a snack.

Candied citrus peels (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Candied citrus peels
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
The birthday of the trees, Tu Bishvat – a day on which we celebrate all the trees and plants that grow in the Land of Israel – finally arrived this past week. This is the time of year when the light pink blossoms on the almond trees begin to sprout, which you can see now blooming all around the country. 
It is traditional to celebrate this holiday by eating dried fruits. For the most part, the dried fruits we eat here in Israel these days are imported and not grown and processed locally, which is such a shame. 
For the past few weeks, I’ve been contemplating all the fun things I could present to you, my readers, here in my column for Tu Bishvat. In my garden at home, I grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs that I am constantly using to prepare dishes. Home-grown herbs have such strong flavors, and the eggplant, turnips, kohlrabi, peppers and lettuce I grow are tastier than anything that can be purchased at a store. 
Usually, when citrus fruits are in season, I get busy making lemon pies, classic apple cakes, jams with large chunks of fruit in them, and vegetable salads with peeled red grapefruit sections. This year, instead of throwing away the peels after we eat the fruit, I decided to make candied peels, which can be used to adorn cakes, or be eaten alone as a snack. 
But you certainly don’t need your own grove of citrus trees to make these recipes. Just save the peels of the citrus fruits you eat, and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to make the candied peels. The first recipe is for chocolate-covered orange peels that are really fun to make with kids (under adult supervision, of course). You can see in the pictures I’ve included this week that the chocolate covering the orange peels is not symmetrical, and that’s because I prepared this batch with children at my home. This is such a great activity to do with your children, especially during lockdown since they’ve been spending way too much time at home with little to do. 
The second recipe is for making candied grapefruit peels using yellow or red grapefruits. This is a great way to make use of citrus peels instead of throwing them away. You’ll be surprised at the wonderful combination of sweetness and bitterness you’ll taste in these unique candies. 
The third recipe uses the peel from pomelos, which are harder to peel than other citrus fruit. Making candied pomelo strips is fun since this fruit is rarely made into candy.  
CHOCOLATE-COVERED CANDIED ORANGE PEELS
Makes enough to fill a 1-liter jar.
Peels from 5 large oranges
Syrup:
½ kg. sugar
2 packets vanilla sugar
½ liter water
5-6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Chocolate coating:
150 gr. bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. oil
Sugar coating:
4 Tbsp. sugar
Toppings:
½ cup candied nuts
½ cup coconut flakes
½-1 cup sugar
To remove the bitter taste from the orange rinds, soak them in water for a few days and also boil them. 
Cut the orange peel into ½ cm-wide strips. Soak them in water for 24 hours. 
Drain them and put them in a large pot. Pour in water to cover and cook over a medium flame. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and then pour in fresh water to cover. Repeat this process of cooking for five minutes and then draining water twice more. Drain well. 
Add the sugar, vanilla sugar, water and lemon juice to a large pot. Mix well and bring to a boil. Stir well until smooth. 
Add the orange peels to the syrup and cook for 1 hour uncovered. Stir every so often and if necessary, cook for another 30 minutes. Cook until all of the peels are covered with the syrup. Taste to check if the peel is soft enough. 
Line a tray with baking paper and place the orange peels on it to dry.
After an hour or two, transfer the orange peels to an air-tight container and store them in the fridge. 
Save the remaining syrup for use with other cakes and cookies. 
The next step is a great activity to do with children. To melt the chocolate coating, place the chocolate in a bowl and melt for 10 seconds at a time in the microwave. Add the oil and mix. Pour the chocolate into a small cup and then let the children dip the candied orange peels halfway into the chocolate. 
Next, hold the orange peel over the cup for a few seconds to let the excess chocolate drip off. Then place the peels on a cooling rack placed over an oven tray. Sprinkle candied nuts and coconut flakes on top and then place in the fridge for 1 hour. Alternatively, you can roll the chocolate covered peels in sugar on a plate. Next, transfer the peels to an air-tight container and store in the fridge. 

CANDIED POMELO PEELS
Makes enough to fill a 1-liter jar.
2 liters or water or enough to cover
1 cup sugar
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 packets vanilla sugar
Peels from 2 large yellow pomelos
Clean the pomelos well. Cut each pomelo peel into 4 sections. Then cut each section into 2 pieces.
Place the peels in a pot and pour in water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the water. Repeat this process every day for 3-4 days to get rid of the bitter taste. 
Drain and squeeze the peels to get rid of excess water. Using a knife, cut off white parts. Slice the peel into thin strips. Place the strips in a flat pot. Sprinkle sugar and vanilla sugar on top and stir gently, careful not to break the strips. Cook over a low flame, mixing until all the sugar has dissolved. Cook for 30 minutes or until the peels are shiny and sticky. Turn off the flame and let cool. 
Arrange the peels on a tray covered with baking paper. Let them dry in an oven that has been preheated to 100°C for 1 hour. Remove and let cool. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the fridge.
CANDIED GRAPEFRUIT PEELS
Makes enough to fill a 1-liter jar.
5 medium grapefruits (yellow or red)
Water to cover
1½ kg. sugar
½ cup lemon juice
¾ cup orange juice
3 cups water
Rinse the grapefruits well. Cut each grapefruit peel into 4 sections. Then cut each section into 2 pieces. 
Place the peels in a pot and pour in water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the water and repeat process twice more. 
Add the sugar, lemon juice, orange juice and water to grapefruit peels. Cook for 2.5 hours. Let cool and transfer peels to a jar. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.