Candied citrus zest makes a lovely garnish for summer desserts. It also makes a damn fine addition to summer cocktails, and is the secret ingredient in my rosemary lemonade cake.
The key to making candied citrus zest is extracting all of the bitter flavor imparted by the pith (the white, inner part of the peel). Since it's nearly impossible to remove the pith completely, the best way to get the bitter out is blanching the zest three times, by dropping it into boiling water to release the bitterness, then shocking it with ice water to stop the cooking (and repeat, and repeat).
Learn The Technique!
Right this way for a step-by-step slideshow of the techniques used in this recipe!
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:1.5 hours
- 4 citrus fruits
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Set two pots of water (with 1 quart of water in each) to boil over high heat. By the time you’re ready to start blanching, the water will be ready.
Use a peeler and make long broad strokes from pole to pole of the fruit. Avoid digging into the pith, but don’t fret if you’ve taken a bit as you peel.
Chop the zest into thin strips if desired.
Set up an ice bath by filling a large bowl three quarters of the way with ice cubes and cold water. Set the bowl near the stove, along with a slotted spoon, spider, or small strainer.
When the water comes to a boil, add the zest to Pot #1 and allow it to simmer for 20 seconds. Remove the zest from the water, either by fishing it out with the spider or pouring it through a strainer into the sink. Rinse and refill Pot #1 with another quart of water, and return the pot to a boil.
Plunge the zest into the bath of ice water. It’s helpful to keep the strands inside the strainer in the bath to avoid having to pick the zest out of the ice.
Repeat steps 5 and 6, first using Pot #2, and then using the newly boiled water in Pot #1. When you’ve finished the third round of blanching, retire Pot #1.
When you’ve finished blanching in Pot #2, you can immediately set up for the final step: candying. Using the ratio of 1 cup fresh water to one cup sugar for every four fruits you’ve zested, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in Pot #2 and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once all of the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is bubbling, reduce the heat to a simmer (just a few steady bubbles, as opposed to a rolling boil) and add the blanched zest. Simmer for about twenty minutes, until the zest is completely translucent and curling along the edges. The syrup will become thicker and take on some color from the peel. Store the zest in the syrup and allow it to cool before using. Refrigerate in a sealed container.