Try something different as a treat! Make these special Candied Lemon Peels to snack on, add to a dessert, or give to someone as a gift.more
cups sugar, divided
oz white or dark chocolate (optional)
Slice the lemons into four quarters lengthwise. Peel the lemon flesh away from the peels. Reserve for another use. Use a small, sharp-edged spoon to scrape the tough fibrous parts off of the inner peel, leaving a thin layer of white left behind on the peel. Slice the peels into thin strips. Alternatively, for thinner and daintier decorative peels, you can use a serrated peeler to scrape yellow strips from the exterior of the lemon peel. Cut those peels into thin slices. Place the peels into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil for 30 seconds. Drain the peels in a colander. Cover with water again. Bring to a boil for 30 seconds, then drain again in a colander. The boil and drain process helps to cook out any bitter flavor from the peels. You can boil and drain up to three times, but I usually only do it twice because the lemon flavor is weakened each time you do it. When you're finished boiling and draining, pour 4 cups of water into the saucepan along with 3 cups of sugar. Stir with a whisk while the water heats, till all of the sugar is dissolved. Add peels to the saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to the a low simmer. Let the peels simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Different sized peels will take different amounts of time to cook. The peels are ready when they're transparent and easy to bite through. Err on the side of cooking them longer, if you're unsure... undercooked peels will have a slightly bitter flavor. Drain the peels. If you want to, you can strain the peels through a mesh strainer, letting the liquid stream into a jar. The leftover lemon flavored simple syrup can be used to flavor drinks and cocktails. It will be a thick syrup, and sugar crystals may collect in the jar over time. You can reconstitute the syrup by adding water and stirring over moderate heat if the syrup becomes overly thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peels out in an even layer on the parchment. Let the peels cool for about 15 minutes till tacky to the touch. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Dip the peels into the sugar till coated. Sugar coating the peels will add sweetness and help to keep them from sticking together. Alternatively, you may let the peels dry as-is for a deeper yellow color and a gel-like texture. Place the peels back on the parchment. Let them dry for 2-3 hours longer if they are sugar coated, and overnight if they are not. At this point, you can serve them, or you can dip them in chocolate. For a batch of lemon peels, you will need about 4 ounces of chocolate (dark or white). Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave for 60 seconds, or until you can stir the chocolate to a smooth consistency. Dip the candied peels one at a time into the chocolate, so they are coated halfway up the peel. Place the dipped peels on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let them dry for 30-45 minutes. These candied peels make a great homemade gift. They will last in a sealed jar for a few months. If you're jarring them and giving them away, I recommend sugar-coating the peels to keep them from sticking to each other. Thicker peels are more candy-like, and taste similar to lemon drops. Thinner peels (using a serrated peeler) will dry curly and slightly crunchy. They're perfect for decorating daintier dishes like cakes and cupcakes. The chocolate-dipped peels are a personal favorite of mine. I especially like the lemon peels dipped in white chocolate.