Making candied grapefruit peels is a great way to preserve some of the delicious grapefruit flavour and enjoy it even when the season is over. Today I will share with you a simple recipe for candied grapefruit peels without refined sugar.
Candied citrus peels are quite a popular sweet here in Croatia, especially in the south. It is no surprise, having in mind that the Mediterranean climate on the coast is perfect for growing citrus trees.
Oranges and tangerines are our staple winter fruits, and every time you visit a farmers’ market to buy some of those home-grown goodies, the Dalmatian ladies selling them will tell you not to throw away the peels. Always use the peels!
There are at least a dozen ways to do so that can pop into my mind right away. They make a nice addition to cakes, creamy desserts, rakija, savoury dishes… But there is one thing that was never really on my menu, up until this winter – the candied peels.
I always considered the traditional candied citrus peels way too sweet and a great way to spoil your teeth. Tasty and aromatic, I cannot argue, but for me not worth the cost. (The same thing like with sugar almonds – sorry Dalmatia!)
But, this winter I got my hands on the most wonderful, tasty, organically grown grapefruits from Dalmatia (and there was a lot of them), so it was a shame not to make grapefruit-everything. I already wrote a recipe for a sugar-free grapefruit marmalade that was a real winner, loved by many, often eaten straight from a jar. Who needs bread anyway.
As I would sometimes have some leftover peels, I decided to preserve them in sweet syrup, to get something similar to the traditional candied citrus peels, but without all that sugar. I decided on a mix of honey and agave syrup, and tried different sugar coating – both raw cane sugar and xylitol worked great, so you can choose the one that you prefer.
I would not use sugars that have a high molasses content, because they are soft and watery. In this case, we need to coat the peels with something crisp and dry, with visible crystals. Other than that, there is really not that much wisdom to the whole thing.
I just cooked the peels in the honey/agave syrup for a couple of minutes, let them soak overnight, strained the syrup and let the peels dry for some time.
When they were dry enough, I coated them with xylitol (you can also use raw cane sugar), let them dry a bit more, and stored in jars.
I saved the leftover syrup in the fridge, and later used it for my kombucha and water kefir secondary fermentation. I also used it in cocktails and rakija, or sometimes simply diluted it with water and shared with my friends as a refreshing drink.
- 2 cups grapefruit peels cut into stripes (peel of two to two and a half large grapefruits)
- 1/3 cup honey*
- 1/3 cup agave syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup raw cane sugar or xylitol for the dusting (optional)
- Cut the grapefruit peels into stripes, and put them into a cooking pot.
- Prepare the syrup - mix the honey and agave syrup with water until they dissolve.
- Pour the syrup into the pot with the grapefruit peels and bring to a boil over a low heat.
- Continue cooking on the lowest heat for 3-5 minutes.
- When you see that the peels have turned a bit translucent from soaking up the liquid (which will happen after a couple of minutes of cooking), you can turn off the heat and close the pot with a lid.
- Let the grapefruit peels stay in the syrup for at least 8 hours. I normally let them sit at the room temperature overnight, and then transfer them inside the fridge for one more day or so (simply because I often have other work that comes up as a priority, and I know that the peels can only get tastier by soaking for a bit longer... win-win!).
- Strain the syrup and save it for some other recipe.*
- Put the grapefruit peels on a tray and let them dry in the air for about 8 hours to get dry at the surface. It can take longer or shorter, depending on the temperature and the air flow in the room. You can check them every now and then to see what they look like - they should stay translucent rather than turning white. When they turn white, it means they also turned quite chewy (if that is your preference, great! If not, keep an eye on them and you will know when is the right moment to proceed to the next step).
- When the peels have dried a bit, but are still soft and translucent, you can dust them with raw cane sugar or xylitol.* You can also skip this step, but from my experience it is useful for maintaining a nice and soft texture when storing the peels.
- Let the coated peels dry a bit longer, until they are fully dry from the outside, but still a bit soft on the inside. At this point, you can place them in glass jars, close and store like that.
* If you do not use honey in your diet, you can replace the written amount with more agave syrup, or maple syrup for some more flavour.
* The leftover syrup has a lot of grapefruit flavour and can be a delicious addition to many recipes. I like to use it to make a secondary fermentation with my kombucha or water kefir, or simply save it as a syrup to dilute with water and have a refreshing drink, or to use in cocktails.
* The easiest way to dust the peels is to fill some kind of a container (that has a lid) with raw sugar or xylitol, add the peels, and shake it to get the peels evenly coated. If your container is not large enough to fit all the peels, you can do it in two rounds - there needs to be enough space to shake it well and cover the peels evenly.