I think it happens unconsciously most of the time, but in general I like my food to reflect my spirit. When my heart is in the food that I make – I like to think that you can almost see the adjectives: Frugal. Simple with an unexpected twist. Local. Solid flavor. Tasty. At the same time, if you lined up recent eating: Passive-Aggressive. Broke. Unhealthy. Unplanned. Kind of depressing. Something is definitely up here. Like life re-evaluating. I don’t want to get into it too much, but on a food level, it speaks volumes.
It’s almost like I had unconsciously planned for this. I had multiple soups in the freezer, some my own and some from our local foodswap, ready to go for when I woke up and lunch was the furthest thing from my mind. I had jam and pickles and cheese, and could throw a few things in my bag and not throw off my whole day or go out and spend more money I didn’t have. That’s really the heart of putting things in jars, isn’t it? Preparation for the future. I mean, the ability to have a gift at any given moment is nice, but I like to think not the primary reason. Maybe I’m naive.
I planned ahead for when I couldn’t possibly have an appetite, but I also planned ahead with a few great distractions. Well – that’s not entirely true – I always have one or two major kitchen projects in the works. Though things didn’t work out for an order of beautiful Texas Ruby Reds, I did score some organic grapefruit at my coop. Salted grapefruit lime jam, a riff on Kaela’s Salted Cranberry Grapefruit Jam, while tasty came out far too cooked for my liking. There were some lovely grapefruit bitters and straight up segments, but far too much leftover rind. I figured if this idea didn’t work out, at least it would only cost me some sugar and time, so why not? I am so glad I did. And not just for the distraction.
Candied Grapefruit Peel
Adapted from Candied Clementine Peel on Epicurious
5 organic grapefruits, preferably red
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Vegetable oil to grease drying rack
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar
First and foremost – yes, you do need to spring for organic fruit here, as with any application that uses the rind of fruit. Take care to remove your peel – either by peeling the fruit or juicing. You need to accomplish two things: small, finger-sized pieces of peel that are completely without fruit and also have minimal pith. Do not make the peels too small here, you can always break into smaller pieces later. Some pith is, of course, fine – and I like that it makes the grapefruit peel not 100% sweet. That said – do take some of it off, and if you can take care to make it smooth it will help when the candied peels are air drying.
Take your trimmed peels and cover with water in a saucepan. I like to use one that is about 4″ deep – enough for the peels to float plenty but not a huge pot, either. Add a half teaspoon of the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, but be careful that it doesn’t boil over. Drain the peels, but take care – they are somewhat delicate. Repeat the process twice more, starting with fresh salted water each time.
At this point, add the peels, granulated sugar and water into a clean pot. You are making a thin simple syrup that will gradually reduce into a thicker one while infusing the peel with sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil. This step may take anywhere from 20 minutes to more – depending on your environment. You know the peels are done when they are translucent and the syrup is thick.
While the syrup is reducing, set up your final station with a drying rack and bowl of vanilla sugar. It helps greatly to lightly both oil the rack (canola oil is great) and place parchment paper underneath to catch excess syrup. Once finished, transfer the peels to the drying rack. They really do need half an hour to dry – do not shortcut this step. You may cut them into smaller pieces once they have cooled, if needed. Toss with vanilla sugar and continue to dry on the rack overnight. You may have to turn them several times and/or toss again in the sugar. Once sufficiently dry (it may take longer than you expect), store in a bowl or jar. If you put the peel in a jar and it re-liquifies, it needs more drying time.
A lovely byproduct of the above recipe. Simply strain the leftover syrup, bottle, and use at will. Because it results from sugar, water, zest and pith, this syrup has a decent bitter note. Added to seltzer it makes a great grapefruit soda – one that isn’t too sweet like some off-the-shelf grapefruit beverages. Added to either gin or tequila, it also is a fabulous base for a paloma or margarita. I’m sure you could can it, but I prefer to use this syrup fresh.