What to do with Lemons, you ask!? How about eating the peels? Sounds strange, right?
When my Albanian coworker first introduced me to candied lemon peels, I was skeptical… She had the candy store near our office special order them for her (sans chocolate) and urged us all to try them. It turns out that they are chewy and sweet and pack some serious lemon flavor, without any of the sourness. Frankly, they’re kind of addicting!
I was curious to find out how these unique sweets are made, so I did some research and discovered that they are actually quite easy to make at home, and only require two ingredients: lemons and sugar! I combed through a dozen or so different recipes online, and adapted my own version which I’ll share today.
You’ll need a bunch of lemons and some regular granulated sugar. I used eight lemons for this recipe. First things first, give the lemons a good wash, since you’ll be eating the peels.
Cut each lemon into wedges and carefully pull the flesh away from the peels. The easiest way to do this is with your hands, peeling back the skin the same way you would peel an orange. Don’t let that lemon flesh go to waste! You can store it away in the fridge for another purpose.
Using a spoon with a sharp edge, scrape away some of the white pith from each peel. This is the part of the lemon that will have a bitter taste. You want to remove enough to cut the bitterness, but not so much that your peels become too thin later on. When you start to see the pattern of pores on the outside of the peel, you’ve gone far enough. Don’t worry about being perfect. Variation is good here!
Slice the peels into thin strips, about a quarter inch wide.
Place the peels into a medium sized pot, and add enough water to cover. Heat over the stove on high until you’ve reached a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute, then drain. Repeat this boil and drain process a second time and set the drained peels aside. Boiling and draining the peels this way will cook out the bitterness from the fibrous portions of the fruit.
In the same pot, measure out three cups of sugar and three and a half cups of water. Heat until sugar is dissolved, then add the peels. Heat this mixture on high until boiling vigorously, then reduce to low-medium heat and simmer for at least an hour, or until peels are easy to bite through. (The exact timing will depend on how thick your peels are, mine needed about 75 minutes.) At this point the sugar solution will have boiled down and thickened quite a bit.
Take the peels off the heat and let them cool in the pot for ten minutes. Then pour off the liquid and set aside, because guess what! You also just made lemon flavored simple syrup. You can use this later for cocktails! Lemon drop martini, anyone?
On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread the peels out to dry. They will need to dry overnight, so put them somewhere out of the way. Once they are cool, you can sprinkle them with some extra sugar, but this step is optional.
You can keep these candies in your refrigerator for a couple weeks, or wrap them up and give as a gift. I reserved a batch as a surprise for a certain lemon-loving coworker.
Don’t forget about that simple syrup! It should go in the fridge also, and will keep for a couple weeks.