Candied Citrus Rinds. (Photo: Suzanne Wong)

We’ve been in lockdown for well over a month, and during this time I’ve been trying to make the most of the food I have: Making sure to eat leftovers, consuming food that’s been squirreled away in my cabinets and freezer, stretching my ingredients by making soup and using parts of vegetables that aren’t the most palatable. I’ve been exploring how to make the inedible edible.

After peeling some oranges and wishing I could compost the rinds – as you may have heard, Cambridge’s composting is suspended during the Covid-19 shutdown – I wondered if there was a way to make the rinds edible. A quick Web search revealed that I could easily candy citrus peels with sugar and water on my stovetop.

This is the stovetop alchemy that brought a bright spot to my pandemic pantry.

Sugar, like salt, can be used to preserve food by preventing the growth of pathogens such as salmonella or Clostridium botulinum. Simply put, the process of sugaring kills the bacteria in the food and replaces some of the moisture with sugar. The remaining environment is not hospitable to bacteria, so none will grow or reproduce on the candied food.

Making candied citrus rinds and simple syrup involves just a few steps and takes about an hour of active work, followed by 48 hours of non-active time. The recipe below calls for the rinds of three oranges; you can easily experiment with other citrus fruit and sugar types. Eat the candied rind like candy, or add it to baked goods such as muffins, brownies and granola. The simple syrup can be used to sweeten iced or hot teas, in seltzers or alcoholic beverages. I made a fantastic Manhattan, and think this would really lend itself to sangria.

Before our physically distanced reality began, I made the effort to test recipes that would require me to buy ingredients I wouldn’t normally buy. Today it seems like a necessity to make the most out of what I have.

Instructions

Reducing the bitterness: Fill a pot with enough water to cover the citrus rinds. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the pith (the white on the inside) of your rinds, you may want to do this step twice to further decrease the bitterness. Drain the boiled rinds.

Sugaring: On the stovetop, dissolve the 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water. Add the rinds and bring to a boil on low heat. Simmer this mixture for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to manage the bubbling that occurs.

Drying: As the rinds boil, put some additional sugar into a bowl. When the boiling is complete, remove the rinds in small batches using a slotted spoon and place them into the bowl with sugar. Shake to cover the rind in sugar and arrange the strips onto the cookie sheet so they can dry. Dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Simple syrup: Do not throw away the remaining sugar syrup! You can use as is as a sweetener for cold drinks, or add additional flavor such as vanilla, cinnamon or fresh ginger.

Storage: Candied peels will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for a month and even longer in the freezer. Simple syrup can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 to 2 weeks.


Suzanne Wong is a resident of East Cambridge and a member of Cambridge’s Recycling Advisory Committee.