The OCD-afflicted among us are going to enjoy the organized manner in which it’s best to peel citrus for candying. I have never been one to indulge in the wreckless abandon of tearing off the skin of an orange willy nilly until the fruit is naked. No, I give myself little gold stars on each finger when I peel anything—an apple, a potato, an orange—in a single spiral, or two if my mojo is off.
Same holds true for present-opening. I will unwrap in reverse order as it was wrapped, slowly pulling on the tape in an effort to prevent a tear in the wrap, slowly unraveling the ribbon. My siblings are not this way and their patience with a slow present-opener on birthdays or Christmas is short: Just rip it! they say. My sister pulls off her ribbons and puts them around her neck like a necklace. It’s fun. It’s normal. What kind of payoff is there really, I ask myself, in the saved wrap that now has creases in it and tape on it, anyway?
Well my friends, payoff time is here. The peel neatly removed from citrus can then be cut into lovely ½-inch pieces that, once candied, dip beautifully into sugar and chocolate. Torn up peel just doesn’t cut it (but as I say that I’m imagining some creative chef turning traditional peel on its head with torn up pieces candied and dipped in chocolate on some cool, contemporary mignardises platter).
To get clean sections of skin, score your citrus into quarters lengthwise and the skin will peel off easily from the flesh. The pith will come with, and that’s ok. We’re going to blanch the dookies out of it, and therefore the bitterness associated with the pith. Slice the peel lengthwise or crosswise, either way works. I like to cut the pieces from large oranges in half, on the bias (at an angle). Some methods suggest using a vegetable peeler to take off the citrus skin. I’ve tried it and it works alright, leaving most of the white pith on the fruit and creating a thinner skin for candying. If you do this, just reduce the cooking time by about half.
The scored prepping method holds true for oranges, clementines (which are my favorite and make a most beautiful and delicious candied peel, though smaller than orange peel), lemons and grapefruit. A sharp knife is key here, as it is for pretty much everything you do with it. Haven’t sharpened yours in a while? Now is a good time, with the holidays coming up and all of the cooking you’ll be doing. Right? Right.