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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So aPEELing (I couldn't help myself)

Last week, I mused, somewhat facetiously, about the fact that there is no part of the vegetable that can't be used... be that leaf, root, stem, etc.

It got me to thinking. (Some people think and then talk about their ideas. Some people talk and then think about what they've said. I'm not saying it's a good thing.)

Why throw away peels?

I searched (and I found that once again millions of internet users had beaten me to the punch), and I read several recipes for candied citrus peels.

Let me back up a little bit. There is a gal at my work who celebrates her birthday this week. I wish I could give her my $1,000 car repair bill, but I can't. I also can't give her anything very extravagant for her birthday, even though she deserves the world. I decided to make her something instead.

Okay, back to peels.

This recipe can be done with any type of citrus peel. I happened to have several citrus fruits that had retired, and were ready to try a second career. I used 5 lemons (that had previously been a pitcher of lemonade), one navel orange (from a banana-orange smoothie), and 2 grapefruits (my breakfast).

The first thing to do is to quarter the fruits, and cut out all of the flesh. Put all of the peels into a pot, and cover with cold water. Bring this to a boil, and boil for one minute. Drain the water, and fill it back up again with cold water, and bring it back to a boil for another minute.

You need to do this a total of four times. Not all recipes asked for this step to be repeated, but the ones that did, said it helped limit some of the bitterness. And since there were several reviews of several recipes that said it turned out too bitter, I felt it was well worth my time.

Let the peels cool enough that you can handle them. The next step is to scrape as much pith as you an out of each peel. This is also to help with bitterness.

But save all that pith... once it dries, you can sew it into sachets, which will keep your linens fresh.

I'm just kidding. I have to draw the line somewhere at what parts of the dang plant we can use. Throw the scraped pith out. It's had a good life, and it is time to let it go.

After scraping out the pith, slice the peels into thin strips.

In a saucepan, bring to a boil two cups of water and two cups of sugar. Once it is boiling and all the sugar has dissolved, you can add the peels back in.

Stir and boil, boil and stir. The recipes said that after 10 minutes, the peels would be almost translucent, and the water almost gone. It took me 25 minutes, but it worked.

Again, wait a bit for this to cool. Spread the peels out on a cooling rack, separated from each other, so the syrup can drain.

Once they have cooled quite a bit, but haven't gotten dry, shake them, a few at a time, in sugar. And enjoy!

Or give them to someone else to enjoy!