Candied Grapefruit Peel — a.k.a. Grapefruit French Fries

Candied Grapefruit Peel

These candied grapefruit peels don’t look quite the way they should. They are supposed to be white-sugar studded and sparkly. But to me, they look like a whole lot like French fries. That’s why I went down to our local burger joint and got one of those little white French-fry baggies to put them in.

I think they look this way because I made them with heavy-grain organic sugar instead of refined white sugar — or even with a finer-grain organic sugar. I learned from my friends Kaela (Local Kitchen) and Kate (Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking) that my C & H Organic Sugar is wetter than the stuff with a finer grain. (We have a discussion about preserving with organic v. conventional sugar going on at Kate’s HGGH Facebook page. Maybe you want to join us?) In this case, the extra moisture seemed to create a hard, mostly non-porous shell around each peel, so that when it came time to dredge the peels in sugar for that lovely, sparkly finish, none of the sugar stuck.

Oh, well. It didn’t stop me from eating them. Do you know how many are left? Zero. I am a fanatic for all things grapefruit.

Candied Grapefruit Peel

To make my funny little grapefruit fries, I used a method described in the current edition of Edible East Bay.  It contains a wonderful interview with Chez Panisse pastry chef Siew-Chinn Chin. (Click on her name and tell me you wouldn’t want to eat anything she offered you — look at that smile!) She offers her own directions for making candied citrus peel and suggestions for using them. I like the idea of “affogato,” in which you pour espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then top it with chopped, candied citrus peel. Add biscotti and you’re very good to go.

Cooked Grapefruit Halves

Candied Grapefruit Peel

We eat grapefruit every day at our house — hundreds of grapefruit every year! We saved just three days’ worth of grapefruit halves– tossing them into a baggie in the fridge — to make a big batch of candied peel. If you do this yourself, prepare to hang out near the kitchen for a while, because it takes over an hour just to blanch the grapefruit rind. You’ll want to have another task at your elbow or something to entertain you while all that simmering is going on. While it’s time consuming, the ingredients couldn’t be simpler:

3 large grapefruit, sliced in half and juiced (or eaten!)
3 cups water
6 cups sugar (refined white is probably best, or look for a fine-grain organic sugar like Wholesome)

1. Blanch the grapefruit, following these instructions: Place the grapefruit halves in a saucepan and completely cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat five or six times. (You need to repeat this so many times to soften the tough peels and leach away most of the bitterness.) After the final blanch, drain the grapefruit halves and let them cool to the point where you can easily handle them.

2. Using a soup spoon, scoop out any remaining flesh most of the pith so you are left with “cups” of peel. (You want to leave a little bit of pith because it will what absorb the sugar syrup.) Cut the grapefruit halves into strips about 1/4″ wide (leave them long or cut them in half, whatever you like).

3. Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and slowly bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced grapefruit and return the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

To plate or not to plate? At this point in Siew-Chinn’s instructions, she advocates putting a sheet of parchment paper over the simmering mixture and laying a plate on top of that to keep the grapefruit peels submerged. I bet if I were a pastry chef at Chez Panisse, I would know how to make that work, but I tried it and ended up with a big hot mess. One of my plates was too small, so the grapefruit peels smooshed out from the edges of it. The other was large enough, but I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on under there. I gave up on the plate idea and everything still turned out okay. After the peels had simmered for a bit, they sunk of their own accord into the syrupy drink.

4. Simmer the grapefruit for about 30 minutes, or until the peels are translucent and tender. The syrup should be the color of straw, not too dark or caramelized. (I had hoped I might be able to save the syrup to use it for something else, but unlike the peels themselves, the syrup was too bitter for my taste. I love bitter citrus, but the flavor of this syrup was somehow not right.)

5. Remove the peels from the syrup and place them on a wire rack to dry, placing something — a pan or a towel — under the rack to catch drips. You might want to do better than I did and think ahead about your wire racks. You will need quite a lot of space to dry these guys! If I had been thinking straight, I would have pulled the wire racks out of my oven and used those, but I was running around with my head unscrewed and all I could think to do was pull an elfa organizer drawer out of my closet, turn it over, and use that. It worked, but I had to be pretty meticulous about cleaning up later, lest I end up with a year’s worth of sticky socks.

6. Let the peels air dry for one or two days. Ideally, they will be a tad sticky but not wet. (Here’s where I think you’ll get a different result from mine if you use a finer-grain sugar. As I mentioned, my peels dried with a rather hard casing on the outside, but stayed wet on the inside for a couple of days.) After the peels are sufficiently dry, dredge them in sugar, coating them as thoroughly as you can.

Siew-Chinn recommends storing them in the fridge, in an airtight container or zip-lock bag. Mine hardly made it that far. I preferred to transfer them directly to my mouth.

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19 comments to Candied Grapefruit Peel — a.k.a. Grapefruit French Fries

  • If you have a wire pasta insert for one of your big stockpots, it works great to hold stuff under water/syrup while still letting you see what is going on. I just plop it on top and let it self-submerge, or if it really needs weighting, put a heavy spoon across the basket top.

    Also – people add bitters to cocktails; wouldn’t bitter grapefruit syrup be lovely in a martini or such? (You know I can’t bear the thought of throwing anything out!).

    Candied peels were on my list this season but just didn’t happen. Too much work, not enough cooking… I’m envious of your grapefruit fries.

  • Shae

    Kaela, you know I know that about you! And I certainly don’t like to toss anything involving citrus, but I guess this syrup was more than bitter. (I actually don’t mind bitter citrus flavor.) It was just kinda . . . off. I’m inclined to point the finger at the heavy organic sugar again. I’m pretty sure the sugar threw the cooking time, as well as the final texture, which for some reason affected the flavor of the syrup much more than that of the peels themselves. Anyway. I didn’t like it.

    I don’t have one of those inserts, but I wonder whether my collapsible steamer insert would work. Hmmm . . .

  • I did something somewhat similar with oranges in 2009. http://chezdanisse.blogspot.com/2009/08/orangette.html A little different, chocolate was involved. It was a fun project. I’d like to experiment with grapefruit.

    • Shae

      See, now, yours look like what I wanted mine to look like! They sparkle. (And then there’s the matter of the chocolate. Oh, my.) Also, I was encouraged to see that you felt no need of the plate trick. :-)

  • This looks great–also seems a low-key way to get into trying to candy peels–only 3 grapefruits? (OK, six cups of sugar, but nevermind). I’ve never been big on grapefruit straight (sweet tooth to blame?), but yet somehow grapefruit reminds me of a lovely little candy (or was it a cough drop) I used to eat in Spain. There were various citrus flavors in the pack and I loved grapefruit and pomelo the best! And I have wanted to try affogato for oh so long…

    • Shae

      Sara, I was surprised how many candied peels just three grapefruits made! But of course I wish I had more, and I will make more. Soon. I would love to know what you start with if you decide to candy some peels. I have a taste for bitter citrus, maybe you will pick something sweeter to start. I take some comfort from knowing how much of the added sugar stays in the syrup. I only wish that this syrup had been more successful in its own right.

  • Those pictures! Just gorgeous Shae! And the french fry bag is just hilarious. FWIW, I used organic sugar for my candied peels (not grapefruit–lemons and oranges) and it didn’t get the french fry effect. I wonder why? I’ve got to see what kind of org. sugar I have. It’s beige, and quite fine-grained.
    So, btw, did you ask me something about a plate?

    • Shae

      It’s worth a lot, Jules. I would love to know what brand of sugar you use. I find the C & H organic to be heavy, even though they call it a fine grain, and it has led me astray in other recipes, too. All you have to do is put it next to their refined white sugar and you can see that “fine” is a pretty flexible term. As I mentioned in my reply to Livia, I haven’t seen anything like this when candying peels in white sugar, and I can’t think of anything else it could have been . . . unless . . . maybe . . . it was the plate? Ha. I’m joking, of course. I think.

      Thanks for smiling at my French fry bag. :-)

  • I just candied some orange peel with organic sugar, but it was my first time candying, so I didn’t have a baseline for comparison.

    What I found was that the first dusting didn’t do much (after just an overnight’s 10 hours – drying), but that after 24 hours in an airtight container, they’d released moisture and were sitting there all sticky in a pool of syrup. So I put them back on the drying rack and left them for about 36 hours. And then I reshook them in sugar, and the results looks like traditional candied oranges to me.

    My syrup wasn’t too bitter (three blanchings and a lot of soaking because I forgot about the peels for a bit), so now what do I do with the syrup? (note: I’m not a fan of pancakes or waffles, which is what I associate with the word syrup) I put it up in a jar because I didn’t want to waste it.

    • Shae

      Livia, good for you for jarring your syrup. To me, good syrup is like gold. I have used flavored syrups in other preserves, but my favorite way to use syrup is in beverages. I love to add syrup to fizzy water to make my own soda (the daytime version) or add something a little stronger to all of that to make an excellent cocktail (the evening version).

      I should have mentioned in the post that when I’ve made candied peel with regular refined white sugar, they have behaved exactly as I expected them to. These were good, but odd! I’m glad yours worked out, too.

  • meg

    I love the fry bag! I love grapefruit and I’m always inspired to make candied peels. But then the whole blanch-repeat cycle throws me. I’m not sure I have the patience. Someday! Meanwhile I just savor grapefruit straight up.
    Hmm, though I have a bag of already eaten/juiced grapefruits in the freezer waiting for a purpose. Perhaps I’ll make some grapefruit vodka =)

  • This isn’t the first time I’ve read about peels turning out this way! Stef at Cupcake Project had a similar experience with candied orange peels. (http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2010/12/candied-orange-peel-pub-peels.html). I think they both sound fabulous!

    BTW, thanks again for the book on canning without sugar. I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes with summer fruits!

  • Meg

    These look fantastic! I’ll be working with grapefruit soon for my vin d’orange recipe, but will pick up a few extras to eat and then candy the peel. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • [...] Candied Grapefruit Peel from Hitchhiking to Heaven. [...]

  • [...] the same way in baked goods. Hitchiking to Heaven has a lovely recipe for candied grapefruit peels… go take a look. I used the same recipe for orange peels and it worked well, and it reminded me those strange [...]

  • [...] grapefruit peel from Hitchhiking to Heaven and Martha [...]

  • 10 months later, but I finally did it! I used the impulse buy of pommelo, and it smells great. I see you let yours dry out over the sink, that sounds really smart! I was wondering if you can do anything with the liquid that is left over–it has such a lovely floral flavor.

    • Shae

      Oh, Sara, definitely keep that syrup! It makes a wonderful addition to drinks — alcoholic or not. These days, I am constantly drinking fizzy water with just a little bit of fruit syrup added. So good!

      Mine actually weren’t over the sink, just set above a couple of baking sheets. But it looks like the sink, doesn’t it?

      • Thanks! I will let you know. I have a water carbonator so this sounds like fun. What Julia Ate also suggested some baking so I will give it a go. The citrus peel is really nice–I was afraid it was too bitter but my uber-picky preschooler pronounced it yummy so I must have gotten it right, or at least close. It’s not as “dry” as I would have thought, I feel as if it’s almost glaceed. Still love your fries pic–so clever!

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