Candied Pomelo Peel

by Bri on March 14, 2008

As I mentioned before, I have fallen in love with a new (very ancient) giant citrus: pomelo. Native to Southeast Asia and Malaysia, and then introduced to China about 3000 years ago, pomelos are the ancestors of grapefruit. Used medicinally for ages, they are quite delicious, it turns out.

Peeled Pomelo

Just look how huge this pomelo is. I love the bright pink flesh and soft pink pith.

We picked up a few at the farmers market and the flesh was sweet, tangy, juicy and all kinds of tasty. Since they are pretty spendy ($2 a piece, although they cost twice that at the grocery store) I wanted to get the full experience and candy the rind.

After doing some research, there are many ways to candy citrus peels. Some recipes suggest using a peeler to remove the skin with the least amount of pith, but we’d already peeled them. Besides, many recipes said that didn’t matter, since we could just scrape the pith off after boiling. Also, a few recipes called for salting the boiling water, then cooking them in sugar syrup. Since it wasn’t a requirement in all the recipes and we are in the midst of a fast from salt, that step was right out.

It’s interesting how many variations there are. I wonder if anyone has THE answer, or if it’s just a matter of habit and preference. I realized that the salt was to remove bitterness from the pith and rind. There was some bitterness in my finished product, but it’s not to strong, and adds a bit more character. Sometime I might try the brining (salted) method to see if it removes more of the bitterness, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary. It’s a different technique, but similar concept behind degorging bitterness from eggplant by salting it and letting it sit awhile before cooking.

Candied Pomelo Peel

You will need about equal parts:
pomelo
sugar (I use raw sugar or evaporated cane juice since it still has some nutrients)
water

Thoroughly wash and peel pomelo (in large chunks) and enjoy the fabulous sweet and sour fruit. Place the pieces of peel in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then cook for 10 minutes. Pour out the water, and repeat twice more. The first time, the peel will most likely float to the top, so put a lid on it, and push the pieces down into the water a bit. By the second boiling, the pith becomes water logged and will stay just under the surface of the water.

After the third boiling and draining, give the peels a good rinse with cold water to help wash off any last bitterness that you can, and help them cool faster.

Second or third boiling – left panel, right panel is two sections of rind where the right one has been scraped of pith

When they are cool enough to handle, scrape the soft pith off the rind. The rind is a bit delicate, so don’t scrape too hard. There was so much pith on mine, I had almost equal pith to usable rind.

Slice them into strips whatever length you like. I chose about 1/2 inch by 2 inch ribbons. Set them aside.

I had about 3 1/2 cups of rind strips, and the recipes varied, but suggested about equal amounts rind, sugar and water. I decided to use 3 1/2 cups of water, but just 3 cups sugar. Worked great, you use your judgment. Over medium-low heat dissolve the sugar in the water, then add in the pieces of peel. Now, you need to be patient. For best results, you want to cook them slowly so the sugar doesn’t burn and the water evaporates. Some recipes said you couldn’t touch them once the sugar dissolved, due to crystal formation, which did occur, but I totally enjoyed the results, so again, it’s up to you.

I saw two main methods for cooking in the sugar syrup. One says to cook the peels until the water is evaporated, others said to just cook them awhile and then drain them on a rack. I tasted the peels every 45 minutes or so and the flavor was quite different at each stage. If you cook it all the way until the liquid is gone, the flavor really intensifies and deepens, but you can choose which method suits you.

Left panel: peels at beginning of being cooked in sugar syrup. Right panel: water has evaporated and translucent peels are just about to come out of the pot.

I lost track a bit while I was making dinner, but the peels cooked between 2 1/2 and 3 hours before the water was fully evaporated. I suggest you leave them alone for about the first hour or so, and then check on them every 10-20 minutes or so after that to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate so quickly the sugar burns.

Left panel: peels have just been spread out on the silpat and are steaming hot. Right panel: dusted with granulated raw sugar.

If you choose this method, once the water has evaporated and the peels have become translucent, carefully (sugar is VERY HOT) pour it out onto wax paper or silpat and spread them out. Otherwise, drain them on a rack to cool. Dust them with sugar and let them cool and dry. I left them alone (beside a little tasting here and there) overnight and then pulled them apart from each other and dusted with more sugar. They are absolutely delicious with an intense sweet-tart taste and strong grapefruit flavor. The applications are endless: dip them in chocolate, decorate other desserts, eat them as-is, put them in brownies cookies or cakes…you name it.

Now that they are candied and delicious, what will I do with these pomelo peels?

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