When I was growing up my Nan always had a Tupperware box filled with home made candied orange peels, often dipped in dark chocolate, somewhere at the back of her cupboard. As a treat we would sometimes be allowed a few to snack on, and although the bitter, rich flavours were slightly overwhelming there was something rather exotic and grown-up about nibbling them.
As I got older the box of peels stopped being made, and I would always pass up the (usually expensive) orangettes when choosing chocolates for something containing nuts or alcohol. It was only last year, when the Ewing candied a whole heap of left over orange skins after some Christmas baking, that I realised how good they could taste, and why they often cost so much.
Although not difficult to make, the procedure is pretty time consuming involving several different steps. You need to give yourself the best part of a week from start to finish, which gives you just enough time if you want to make some as Christmas gifts this year.
Orange peels are the most traditional, but on seeing some pink grapefruit on offer while shopping, I decided to try something slightly different. After spending a Sunday morning diligently removing as much pith as I could from the pile of grapefruit peels, the Ewing came downstairs and announced that the pith should be left on as it soften and sweetens during the candying process and helps the peel hold together. No matter, both the 'peeled' peels, and the one with the pith left on, worked equally well.
After the blanching, boiling, candying and drying processes were complete I decided to half dip some of them in a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, and then finished with a sprinkle of pink Murray River salt flakes (obviously you could substitute any salt flakes, I just had some left from a trip to Australia, and it continued the 'pink' theme). As well as being the trendy thing to mix with chocolate the salt also reduces the bitterness in the grapefruit peel (as seen by some cultures adding salt to their coffee or Heston's tonic trick).
So, a bit of a labour of love, but well worth the effort. The final candied peel is zesty and sweet with a pleasing bitter finish and an added dimension from the chocolate, which pairs very well with citrus flavours. As an added bonus I chopped up the smaller pieces to use as mixed peel in fruit cakes and biscotti, far nicer than the tasteless, tough, dried lumps you buy in most supermarkets. The Ewing even managed to salvage a jar of the left over, thickened boiling syrup, full of little pieces of grapefruit flesh and zest, to use as a marmalade.
Chocolate Dipped Candied Grapefruit
8-10 pink grapefruit,
150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
Sea salt flakes or caster sugar to finish
Scrub and peel the grapefruit, leaving the pith on, and cut peel into strips.
Place the peel in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain and repeat process twice more. This helps to remove some bitterness from the peels.
Cover the peel with two litres of cold water and bring to the boil again. This time simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the peels ate soft and translucent.
Add the sugar, stir until it's dissolved and simmer again, covered, for another 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to stand for 24 hours.
Remove the lid and bring the pan to the boil again, boiling for about 30 minutes, or until most the liquid had evaporated and the peel is covered with a thick, bubbling syrup (be careful it doesn't burn).
Cool and then place sticks of peel on a wire rack and leave somewhere warm (by a radiator or in the airing cupboard) until dry (about 48 hours).
Melt chocolate in microwave or in a double boiler and then half dip the grapefruit sticks in the melted chocolate. Place on greaseproof paper, top with a sprinkle of sea salt flakes and leave until set.
Alternatively roll the peel in caster sugar and use in baking.
This will make quite a few sticks. Halve the recipe if you want, although they keep very well for a few months undipped, and a few weeks when dipped.