Candied lemon peels is not something I remember eating a as child nor is it something I’ve thought about making for years. I do remember eating those jellied “lemon” wedges from the candy store as a kid, but my guess is that very few of the ingredients has anything to do with real life lemons. You know, artificial coloring, flavoring, shaping, etc.?
However, upon looking for recipes to try out after receiving the Amazing Lemon Bounty from Schneiderpeeps for my Meyer Lemon Recipe Extravaganza, I came across a few methods for candied lemon peels including this one from The Shiska in the Kitchen and couldn’t wait to make it! I mean, really, how often do you have the chance to make something that most people don’t even think about? How often do you take the opportunity to spend valuable time and energy turning something that usually goes into the trash or compost heap into something absolutely divine?
So, upon deciding to embark on this little experiment in deliciousness, I also decided to expand on it by multi-tasking! Why complete just one project when you can complete five instead?
So, with 17 gorgeous Meyer Lemon sitting on my counter, I made a plan and dove in! Here’s how it all went down:
I started with 10 lemons and a bottle of Vodka
Using a vegetable peeler, I peeled all 10 lemons carefully so as to avoid as much pith as possible. Then I threw the peels into a 2-quart mason jar, poured the entire bottle of vodka over it, put a lid on it and found a home for it on the shelf in the pantry. Five days later, this would become Limoncello and what remained of the lemons were set aside for later.
With the vodka gone, it was time to break out the sugar to begin the candied lemon peels process
- The remaining seven lemons were quartered and peeled.
- Then, using a melon baller (because that’s what I had on hand), I scraped the pith out from each slice of lemon peel.
- Next, I cut each section of lemon peel into 4 or 5 little strips, put them in a small pot of water and brought them to a boil for 30 seconds before straining them, covering them in water again, boiling and straining a second time and letting them sit in the colander for a few minutes. The boiling and straining is supposed to help get rid of the bitterness in the peel.
- Then, I put 3 cups of organic cane sugar and 4 cups of water into my pot and brought them to a boil, stirring regularly until the sugar was dissolved.
- Once the sugar was dissolved, I added in my lemon peel strips and simmered them for 90 minutes over medium heat, stirring ever 15 minutes or so.
- After the 90 minutes was up, I strained the peels of their syrup over another 2-quart jar and reserved the syrup (in the pantry) to add to my Limoncello when it was ready
- The lemon peels were then placed on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and allowed to dry for ~20 minutes until they were just a bit tacky
- Once tacky, I took a small bowl of organic cane sugar and, taking just few peels at a time, coated them in the sugar by gently swishing them around in the bowl before laying them back on the parchment paper to dry overnight
- The next morning they were lovingly placed in a pretty mason jar for delicious enjoyment in the weeks to come!
Now I was left with a bunch of peel-less lemons!
While the lemon peels were simmering in their delicious sugar water, I tackled the remaining lemons simply by juicing them into a large measuring cup using a citrus juicer. 17 lemons gave me 3 1/3 cups of pure lemon juice which I strained before pouring into ice cube trays to freeze in small amounts for later use in beverages, preserves and meals.
In the process of straining, I set aside 10 seeds to plant under our grow lights. They won’t ever turn into lemon producing lemon trees (not the the best of my knowledge, at least), but they sure will be pretty anyway 🙂 I picked ten seeds specifically so I could do a germination test and come out with an even percentage. Yes, I’m a nerd and I love it.
Now, what to do with the leftover peel-less and smushed lemons?!
Well, inspired by the frugality and brilliance of Ashley at The Browning Homestead, I threw the smushed up lemons into yet another 2-quart jar and topped them off with some white vinegar. Into the fridge they went to marinate for a few days.
Fast forward five days…
- The Limoncello-in-the-making was ready for straining so strain it I did. I then poured it back into its 2-quart jar and added in the syrup mixture that was left over from the candied lemon peels. The recipe called for 3 1/2 cups of the syrup, but I had 4 full cups leftover and didn’t want to waste it, so into the jar it went! Now, before this experiment, I’d never even had a Limoncello so I don’t know if this additional syrup really makes a difference or not, but I have to say, this is one delicious drink over a bit of ice! The ratio of syrup to vodka is about 2:1, so do with this information what you will, go forth and enjoy an adult beverage 🙂 OH! Apparently this little concoction of mine will last in the fridge for up to two years!
- The candied lemon peels are so incredibly divine and have been enjoyed by everyone I have given them to! I will never look at a citrus peel (as long as it’s organic) the same again and have kicked myself in the ass several times when reflecting upon the thousands of peels I have tossed in the past! Never again!
- The lemon and vinegar cleaner has been strained and is sitting at the bottom of the pantry waiting to be used as a simple, powerful and chemical free cleaner!
- The lemon juice ice cubes have been popped out of their trays and are waiting patiently in freezer bags in the freezer for a fish or chicken recipe to spark my interest.
- And what about those seeds? Well, they have just been plopped into some soil and are sitting under our grow lights as we speak. I’ll let you know if anything comes of them when I see it with my own eyes.
There you have it! Five projects, 17 lemons, ~six hours total and some serious pride in how much can be accomplished with a little creativity and forethought!
The candied lemon peels took, by far, the longest to prep, simmer, dry and sugar coat, but I cannot tell you enough how worth the time and effort spent is! The process of it reminded me of making our own garlic powder and how exhausting and time consuming it was…and how that process lead to my reflections on how easy we have it now…how everything is about instant gratification and how cheaply something can be made so it can be sold on the cheap as well. But at what cost?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to throw off the trappings of our conventional lives anytime soon, but these DIYs we’ve been working on for the past few years lend themselves nicely to thoughts of “simpler” days when everything was handmade and there actual pride in that. And that pride, it does wonders for a weary soul 🙂