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Ingredients 101: Organic Citrus, and candying magic!

Using great ingredients is at the core of making good chocolates.  While organic cream and organic butter are easy to find locally, it took me a while to find organic Rio Star pink Grapefruits (Fruit Share in FL, see link below). But my longest search was for a supplier of organic Meyer Lemons.  I now get them, 10 lbs at a time, from Fairview Orchards in Ojai, CA. Their lemons are exquisitely plump, with beautiful thin skins perfect for candying, and the juice is very sweet. 

How to candy?  I do it the old fashioned French way, which takes at least 10 days, but in very short bursts of work.  The results are worth it, see the pictures above: the fruit becomes translucent and the peel is so soft, intensely flavored and succulent.  This season, tiny pieces of the Meyer Lemon are in the Pistachio Raspberry chocolate, and the Pink Grapefruit is added to Hazelnuts and dark chocolate.

Step by step:  Candying Meyer Lemons.

These instructions work for any quantity.  The weight of the peels determines the weight of the sugar.  Best to do at least several lemons at a time, since you can freeze your production for up to a year.  

Wash the lemons, cut them in half and juice them.  Put the juice in little freezer bags, they freeze beautifully and you won't waste a drop.  Turn each juiced lemon inside out and using a small knife, pull the empty segments out.  They will come out easily.  Now cut the lemon skins into strips, about 1/4" wide.  Cut the strips that are too long into two.

Place the lemon strips into a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer, then drain the water out.  Repeat this step four times (this is called blanching and removes the bitterness of the white part, called the pith). 

Weigh your lemon strips, return them to the pot, add their weight in (organic) sugar.  Add water so it covers the lemons and sugar completely.  Bring to a simmer and allow to gently cook for 30 minutes.  Cover the pot, set it aside and let the lemons steep for 2 days.

On day 3, add about a fifth of your original sugar amount to the pot, and return it to the stove.  Stir so the sugar grains melt, bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat. Stir well, cover the pot and let the lemons steep for another 2 days.

Repeat the step above 3 more times (4 more times for Grapefruit peel).  Always add a bit more sugar each time, that ever increasing saturation is what makes the peels absorb the sugar.

Once the peels are ready, drain them and place them on a rack covered with parchment paper.  Allow them to dry out, which will take a couple of days if you place them in the fridge.  But if you have one, I find it faster to use our dehydrator for that step, at 130F for two to three hours.  You can also roll the peels in confectioner's sugar to make them lose any stickiness.

At this point you can make the peels even more delicious by dipping them partially in chocolate for a fantastic treat.  Or you can use them to make amazing scones, Easter breads, trifles, you name it!  

Here are links to these two excellent organic citrus farms:

Fairview Orchards, for Meyer Lemons:   


Fruit Share, for Rio Star pink Grapefruits: