Candied citrus peel seems complicated upon the first reading of the recipe, but it is not. It is actually a fairly simply process, and does take some time, but it is not ‘hands on’ time, that is, you can certainly have another project going at the same time.
Suggestion: Read the entire recipe before you start. This is best done on a cool, dry day – if rain or humid weather is forecast, put this off until it will be dry for 3 days. This is not a hot weather project. If you do not have a couple of racks (I use saved racks from my deceased toaster ovens), consider borrowing a rack, as these are essential. You will also need wax paper.
First, you’ll need some nice oranges or grapefruits. Soak them in a tub of cold water, and scrub them very well. For 12 large oranges, halve the fruits and juice with an electric juicer. This works well to clean out the pulp, so you are left with relatively clean citrus peel hemispheres. Your family and your Co-op will enjoy a refreshing glass of tasty juice while they help with the rest of the project. Take the clean hemisphere, and cut off about 1/4″ from the end. Both the blossom and the stem end can harbor bacteria, not welcome here. Then cut your peel into strips, between 1/4″ and 1/2″ wide. (Small pieces become too difficult to maneuver onto a drying rack.) Put the strips of clean peel into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Let this boil for about 5 minutes, then dump the contents into a colander in the sink, and rinse the peels with cold water. Rinse the pan as well, then put the peels back into the pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil again. Repeat this blanching process for a total of 3 times. Put the rinsed blanched peels back into the rinsed saucepan and add 3 cups sugar and 2 cups water, and a pinch of kosher salt. Put this on the stove on a medium setting or a gentle boil, and leave it alone. You don’t need to stir it, just let the peels absorb the syrup and become a little translucent. They are already tender. You do not want this to cook down to a solid mass. I like to put a lid on the pan with about a 1/2″ open for steam to escape, so it won’t boil over but let most of the steam drip back down into the pan. Let the peels cook for about 45 minutes, and take a look. They should look a bit translucent. Take one out, and taste it. It will still be very sticky, but it should taste like a cooked product, and be tender all the way through and not excessively bitter. Place rack(s) on a large pan, and spray them with Pam (or cooking spray). This is the most meticulous part of the entire process, and you need to have tongs to place each peel on the rack to dry. The more room you have, i.e., the more racks, the easier this will be. Once all the peels are out of the syrup and reclining on the drying rack, put the pan into your cold oven and set it at the lowest setting. Save the syrup!
>> Save the syrup and use it for the next batch. With every successive batch, the syrup becomes more intensely flavored, and the resulting peel is even tastier. When you think you do not have enough syrup, just add 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 c water to replenish it.
Set the pan of pels on the racks in your oven at the lowest setting -for my oven that is 170. Let these sit in the warm oven for 12 hours, turn off the heat, and leave them for another 8 to 12 hours. In the oven, the peels will stay clean and dry and not harbor any passing dust or curious insects. After this drying period, the peels should be dry and ready to eat, or dip in chocolate, which is pretty fabulous. You will not need to roll these in sugar, they will be perfectly dry.
Chocolate dipping: You will need a double boiler, or something approximating that set-up with your saucepans. Cover cookie sheets with wax paper.
Trader Joes sells a pound plus block of dark 72% Belgium chocolate that performs superbly. Chop 1/2 of the block, and although you don’t want flakes, smaller pieces are easier to control in the melting process. Put half of the chopped chocolate (that would be about 1/4 of the block) in your double boiler, and stir to melt. Using your thermometer, it should read 120 when melted. Put in a handful of the remaining chocolate, and stir like crazy. As this melts, keep adding the rest of the chopped chocolate, stirring vigorously all the while. When it looks just about incorporated, check the temperature, and when it reads 109, you are ready to dip the peel. You have already covered large pans with wax paper in preparation for this. Working very quickly, ideally with another Co-op member who ‘speaks chocolate’, dip half of each peel in the chocolate and lay on the wax paper. Because this is tempered chocolate, it should dry to a smooth, ‘crisp’ finish and it will not need refrigeration.