Mince Pies: Second, Make Your Candied Peel
This recipe is reliably good and hails from Sonia Allison’s Book of Preserving (1979) and although it could take up to 3 and a half weeks before you’ve got your finished article, you can cut each stage down to fit your own time frame.
- Any citrus fruit – I used 3 pink grapefruit this time, which fits the quantities of this recipe and would equate to approximately 8 lemons and 4 – 6 oranges depending on their size.
- 225g caster sugar
- 125 caster sugar
- Granulated sugar
- Wash fruit thoroughly and scrub if waxed.
- Peel fruit and slice in to narrow strips (I find it easiest to peel in quarters).
- With grapefruit, you will then need to cut off the pith as well, it’s a bit time consuming but inedible without this extra effort (the first two photos above show just how much pith there was from three grapefruit!).
- Put peel in a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and lower the heat. In the case of grapefruit, which is more bitter than orange or lemon, you will need to change the water once it has boiled and repeat this twice more before covering and simmering for between 1 and 2 hours until very tender.
- Drain thoroughly, reserving 275ml of liquor, adding extra water if necessary.
- Pour liquor in to a pan and add 225g caster sugar. Melt over a low heat, stirring and bring to the boil. Stir in the peel them remove from the heat.
- Leave the peel to stand in the syrup for 48 hours.
- Drain off the syrup and pour in to a clean heavy bottom pan, add 125g caster sugar and dissolve slowly, add peel and gently simmer until the peel becomes translucent. During this phase you should nurse your peel like a risotto, giving it plenty of stirring to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Cover when cold and leave peel to stand in the syrup for 2 to 3 weeks (or however long you’ve got).
- To dry, take peel out of pan and spread on to a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment paper. Place in a cool oven set to 50 degrees C (gas 1/2) and leave to dry until the surfaces of the peel are no longer sticky to the touch. Turn pieces from time to time, the whole process may take from 2 to 4 hours. You can also, as I did last year, leave it in an airing cupboard (as long as it also houses your boiler) for 3 to four days and that’s just as good. This year, it’s going under the wood burner, which will probably dry it out faster than the oven.
- Toss in granulated sugar and, when cold, store in air tight containers where it will happily keep for up to 12 months or longer. (I like to chop it up in to smaller bits as and when I need it, I think it retains a better flavour this way, but you can chop it up at the beginning, before cooking, or at any stage inbetween).