Candied citrus zest can be used to brighten the flavor and appearance of sweets and cocktails. Click through this slide show to learn how to make your own, step-by-step.
Use two pots
Begin by setting up 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. For the sake of this demonstration, I will refer to them as Pot #1 and Pot #2.
Peel zest in long strips
Use a peeler and make long broad strokes from pole to pole of the fruit (I’m using a lemon for this demonstration, but this technique also works for oranges, grapefruit, or limes). Avoid digging into the bitter pith (the white stuff), but don’t fret if you’ve taken a bit as you peel.
Chop the zest
If you would like thin, curly strands of candied zest, you can julienne (cut it into thin strips) it with a knife. Or, if you prefer, the strips may also be candied as they were peeled from the fruit. The candying technique will work with either size.
Set up an ice bath
Fill a large bowl three quarters of the way up with ice cubes and cold water. Set the bowl near the stove, along with a slotted spoon, spider, or small strainer.
When the water is boiling, 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. Blanching repeatedly removes bitterness from the zest.
Transfer to the ice bath
Plunge the zest into the bath of ice water to halt the cooking. 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 blanching and shocking process two more times
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.
Make simple syrup
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, water, and corn syrup in Pot #2 and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. The sugar should dissolve completely.
Candy the zest
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.
Cook until translucent:
Simmer for about 20 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 in an airtight container and allow it to cool before using. Will keep in the fridge for 1 month.