This treat is not for the faint of heart. It is powerful stuff; sweet yet bitter, tough yet tender. Not for mindless snacking - it asks, perhaps even demands, to be savored. We made it here with grapefruit rinds, whose thick pith yields abundant material. Orange peel and lemon peel are also sublime; use Eureka or Lisbon lemons, rather than Meyer, for the full effect. (Meyer lemons, tangerines and mandarins have a thinner, softer peel, which is not as well suited to the long boiling periods required in this recipe.)
The addition of a vanilla bean elevates this recipe to another aromatic plane. The whole house smells incredible for hours after making it. The kind of smell that makes you swoon when you open the door. The kind of smell that makes you close your eyes and breathe deeply.
I just used the phrase “aromatic plane.” Perhaps this recipe has gone to my head…or maybe I am in love.
The leftover syrup (about a pint remains after the last boiling) makes a lovely glaze for any desert, and can be used to flavor drinks as well. Try it with water kefir, kombucha, or club soda. Or mix fresh grapefruit juice with a shot of whiskey and a splash of this syrup. Garnish with a candied peel, and fall in love all over again.
This recipe makes about 2 pints, and can be stored in airtight jars for a month. It comes to us from the beloved “Put “em Up," a comprehensive preserving guide for the creative cook. Our copy is much dog-eared and smells faintly of grapefruit and vanilla.
By the way, these rinds can also be dipped into melted dark chocolate, if you think you can take it.
Cut the peels into 1/4” strips. Cover the peels with cold water in a large non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure that all the peels are heated through. Strain and repeat two more times to remove the bitter flavor from the pith and to soften the peels. After the third round, set aside the peels to drain while you make the syrup.
NOTE: I wanted my peels to be bitter; after all, that’s part of the pleasure of this recipe. So I was skeptical at first of whether or not to boil and drain the peel all three times. I tried them after each rinse and was glad to discover that they remain very flavorful and intense, even after three boilings. Incidentally, the water that is drained from the peels is quite flavorful as well. It’s halfway to making grapefruit bitters! I saved a quart to experiment with, for later.
Bring 1 cup water to a boil and gradually add 4 cups of the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
Add the peels and the vanilla bean. Return to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, cooking gently until the peels are translucent and tender, about 1 hour.
Remove the peels from the syrup. (Save that syrup for other delicious uses!) Place the peels on a drying rack placed over a baking sheet, and separate them so they don’t touch. Let them dry in the open air for 4-5 hours, or place them in a dehydrator to speed up the process.
When quite dry, but still tacky, roll the peels in the remaining 1 cup sugar to coat.
Store in an air tight container for longevity and freshness. We love our Le Parfait jars shown here!
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