The Best Candied Citrus

March 24, 2011

I generally shy away from calling recipes the best of something. Everyone has different tastes so what I might think is the best chocolate chip cookie or brownie might look very different than someone else’s favorite. But with these candied fruits I am willing to go out on a limb and say these are truly the best. They are bursting with fruit flavor and have the perfect texture, not too firm but not too soft either. I am really glad they turned out so well, because they are a bit of a project to make. I am always up for tackling new cooking challenges, but nothing is more disappointing than making a recipe that is a lot of trouble only to find out that the results are only marginally better than the simpler version. That is not the case with these, they are outstanding and totally worth the effort.

These are made in the traditional french style of candying fruit. Over a period of time the concentration of the sugar syrup the fruit is in is gradually increased so that the liquid in the fruit gradually is replaced by the sugar syrup thereby preserving the fruit. With this method the fruit is never really cooked so it maintains its fresh flavor. There is nothing difficult about the process, it just takes time. Every day for two weeks the syrup is drained off the fruit and heated with additional sugar to increase the concentration. Once this is done the candy will last almost indefinitely.

It is perhaps indicative of my own special brand of craziness that I though it was a good idea to embark on a cooking project that required daily tending when I had a new six week old baby, but I couldn’t help myself. The assortment of citrus in the store was so beautiful I just had to preserve it. Somehow I found myself with a cart full of different citrus fruits, a 25 pound bag of sugar, and I was on my way candied citrus heaven. By far our favorites were the blood oranges and meyer lemons, but they were all good. I can’t wait until next winter to make even more varieties.

On another topic, congratulations to Rivers, the winner of the CSN giveaway. Email me and I will pass along the certificate code.


The Best Candied Citrus

recipe based on the method from Brownie Bites Blog

4 oranges, preferably organic (or the equivalent amount of other citrus)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) sugar, plus additional sugar for each day. (you will need a total of 2.4 kg or 5.3 lbs of sugar)
600 g (21.5 oz or approximately 2.75 cups) water

Slice the oranges into thin rounds, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Fill a bowl with ice water and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sliced oranges to the boiling water (may need to be done in batches depending on the size of your pot). Scoop from the boiling water when the slices float to the top and place into ice water to cool. (They should cook no more than one minute) When cool, drain and remove the slices from the ice water and transfer to a container large enough to hold all of the slices.

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. This step is to just dissolve the sugar (not to cook the syrup). Pour the hot syrup over the orange slices. If the orange slices float, weigh them down to keep them fully submerged. (The easiest way is to place a plate on top of the orange slices and a glass jar of water on top of the plate)

Store the submerged orange slices in a dark cool place, like a cupboard or closet for the duration of the candying. They do not need to be refrigerated.

Each day increase the sugar content of the orange slice sugar solution. Do this by draining off the sugar solution the slices are submerged in, add 100g of sugar, heat the solution to just dissolve the sugar, and pour back over the orange slices. Complete this increase-sugar step daily for two weeks.

Once finished with this process the candied oranges will keep in the solution for a very long time. When ready to use them they can be finished in the following ways.

Remove the orange slices from the sugar solution. Arrange in a single layer on a drying rack out at room temperature and let stand until less tacky, 1-2 days (longer if it is very humid). Turn them after one day to make sure they dry evenly. Once dry they can be finished by rolling them in sugar or dipping them in tempered chocolate.

Store finished candies in an air tight container to keep out humidity. They should last at least a month if kept well sealed (and away from nibblers like we have in my house.)

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  1. Wow, you weren’t kidding when you said candied. I’ve never done a task like this, and had had no idea where to begin. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    • It does seem like a big project, but it isn’t difficult. It does use a lot of sugar, but I keep telling myself that most of the sugar stays in the syrup so I can pretend the fruit part is still marginally good for me!

    • The syrup takes on the flavor of the fruit and is quite flavorful. It can be used in any recipe that uses flavored simple syrup. It is great in drinks or brushed on cake layers. I am currently experimenting with making citrus flavored rock candy swizzle sticks with the syrup, I’ll let you know how it comes out.

  2. Wow, this looks fabulous. What an amazing technique. So impressed you pulled this off. I wonder if this would work with apricots. Candied apricots are amazing and I don’t see them often in the store.

    • What a great idea to do this with apricots. We used to get amazing candied apricots from a Middle Eastern store in Miami but I haven’t had any in years. I think it should work fine. I made some cherries (using frozen sour cherries) along with the citrus in this batch and they came out fine. They were sweeter than the citrus but very tasty. Thanks for the inspiration, I am going to try this during apricot season.

  3. I am currently making a batch of candied orange slices. Thinking that I was extremely clever, I decided to split the slices between 4 canning jars; thus they would be already in an easy-store container. The first batch of syrup fit perfectly, no problems, and I felt very proud of myself. And in the ensuing days, as I added more and more sugar to the syrup, there was less and less room in the jars. I am now at the point where there is no more room in the jars, and a small amount of syrup is being discarded daily. Please learn from my failure 🙂 I’m sure they will still taste delicious.

    • Thanks for letting us know! I didn’t notice the syrup increasing in volume because I am a bit of a klutz and kept managing to spill some of the syrup when transferring it back and forth to the pan. Good to know that I should leave a bit of extra room next time on the off chance I don’t spill any. Enjoy your oranges!

  4. Hi Shoshana,
    Thank you for this beautiful recipe. May I ask the will the orange skin gets soften after the 2 weeks soaking? If I like a bit softer on the skin , can I boil the orange longer then?
    Thanks for the replying in advance.

  5. You probably aren’t monitoring the comments here anymore, but just in case or if anyone else knows: Can the leftover syrup be used to start a new batch? And if not, why not?

    • Unfortunately it cannot easily be used for a new batch. This process of candying fruit relies on slowly increasing the sugar concentration over time, that is why you add more sugar each day. The finished syrup has far too much sugar in it to start a new batch. Presumably you add some water to it to dilute it but without a special tool for measuring sugar concentration it would be hard to know how much. I use the syrup as a flavored simple syrup. It is great in drinks or brushed on a cake.

      • Thank you so much for your explanation! So this should be great to use in place of the plain simple syrup called for to sugar cranberries, right? That only takes an overnight, because it’s not candying them, only sugaring. I love the cranberry/orange combo almost as much as orange/chocolate 🙂 Now I can hardly wait till my orange slices are finished, so I can try a batch of “new and improved” xmas cranberries!!

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