In 2000, Odessa Piper, the founding chef and former owner of L'Etoile Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, told Wisconsin Trails magazine that generations of Piper women have been candying grapefruit peel by a three-day process that I have since incorporated into my holiday kitchen routinewith the exception of last year, when I realized too late that we had moved away from the neighbor whose Crock-Pot I had always borrowed for the task.
This year I bought my own Crock-Pot. I also ordered a box of organic grapefruit from L'Hoste Citrus in Braithwaite, Louisiana, which is better known for its satsumas but also produces exceptional navel oranges, Meyer lemons, and pink grapefruit this time of year. The L'Hostes farm on land so low-lying that cruise ships tower above their citrus groves as they travel up and down the Mississippi River just beyond a grassy levee.
The absurd length of Piper's candying method is what originally drew me to the recipe. The article included no photos of the finished product, and I just had to see what 16 hours of cookingmore or lesswould do to a grapefruit peel. (It's possible to complete the project in two days, if you're always ready for the next step when the grapefruit is.)
The result is stunning, in appearance as well as flavor. The rind turns an almost transparent, glassy amber color; it could almost be used as an ornament. This is grapefruit rind candy, not candied grapefruit rind. Its flavor is more caramelized sugar than fruit. While it does leave that little itch of citrus rind in the mouth, there is no unpleasant bitterness.
Dipping in chocolate is optional, and not wholly recommended. Purists will want to eat them straight. I usually dip half.
One year my grandmother ruined a crown eating my grapefruit rind candies. Beware: The closer it gets to the hard-ball stage, the chewier it becomes. And mine always remain a little tacky, no matter how long they cure. They're candyI figure they're supposed to be sticky.
- 10 to 12 medium-size pink grapefruit
- 1/3 cup salt
- 2 to 3 quarts sugar
- 1 pound dark or bittersweet chocolate (optional)
Remove fruit and its membrane from grapefruit rind, leaving the white pith attached to the peel. If grapefruits have been juiced, be sure to cut any leftover pulp from the peel. Cut rinds into 1/2-inch-wide strips that are about the length of a pinky finger. Place cut rinds with salt in a large pot. Cover with water and soak overnight.
The next day, pour off the brine. Fill pot with fresh cold waterenough to submerge peelsand bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately dump off boiling water. Repeat this procedure two more times.
Drain rind of excess water and measure it by volume. For every 4 parts rind, use 5 parts sugar. Be liberal with the sugar. Place sugar in the bottom of a large, heavy pot, and set the rind on top of it. Slowly bring contents to a simmer, stirring occasionally. If pot is not heavy enough, the sugar will burn; if pot is not big enough, it will be difficult to stir. Once sugar has melted, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush sugar crystals down from the side of the pot. If syrup does not cover rind, add more sugar and melt before proceeding.
Once all sugar crystals have melted, transfer contents of pot into a pre-heated Crock-Pot or slow cooker. Crack the lid 1/2 inch to allow steam to escape. Set Crock-Pot on highest setting to maintain a simmer. Never stir contents, but periodically push protruding rind down into the simmering sugar with a wooden spoon. When syrup reads between soft-ball stage and hard-ball stage on a candy thermometer, remove from heat. This should take 4 to 8 hours.
Separate hot rinds onto cooling racks set over cookie sheets. Place cookie sheets in an oven set to 150°F (or lowest setting) to dry-cure. Bake until rind is barely tacky to the touch. This will take 4 to 8 hours. Cool rinds.
If desired, dip grapefruit rind candies in chocolate.