Not going to lie, candied dried citrus is a dime a dozen at the grocery store, and during the holidays, I am guessing you are receiving more than your fair share of gift baskets with some form of candied citrus in it.
Nevertheless, making your own candied dried citrus is better because you can make sure that the citrus is from a local source, organic (especially since you are eating the outer peel), and washed thoroughly. If you care about any of those things, of course, which you should because you just should.
A quick note: This is a recipe for Candied Dried Citrus which is different from Dehydrated Citrus Crisps (different recipe). This recipe for Candied Dried Citrus are cooked in sugar syrup so they are softer and very very sweet. They taste great and can be eaten as candy or from a cheese or charcuterie board. The latter, Dehydrated Citrus Crisps, are dehydrated at a very low temperature as is from the raw state with no sweetener, so they are brittle and taste very bitter. They work better as a cocktail garnish or for visual garnish on a cheese and charcuterie board.
Make Candied Dried Citrus to use on cheese and charcuterie boards, eat as is, give away as gifts, decorate cakes and desserts, and garnish cocktails!
What Kind of Citrus to Use for Candied Citrus
You can candy and dry and kind of citrus, as long as the citrus slices are thin. Generally, sweeter citrus work better because the sweetness will balance the bitterness of the pith and skin. Regular navel and valencia oranges, small mandarin/clementine/tangerine oranges, and pink grapefruit all work well. Even lemons and limes are good even though they are very tart when fresh, they will be candied with simple syrup. Blood oranges are especially fun for their color.
The one exception here for me is pomelo, which look like swollen grapefruit with greenish skins. Pomelo almost always have disproportionately more white pith than other citrus, which makes them very bitter.
I get organic citrus from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesdays, or any grocery store that carries organic citrus.
Tools and Equipment You Need to Make Candied Citrus
- favorite all-purpose 7-inch chef's knife (expensive but worth it!)
- Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash
- large, very-heavy bottom pot (I use different brand cookware for pans vs pots)
- sturdy all-purpose baking sheet
- racks for baking sheets
- unbleached parchment paper
How to Make Candied Dried Citrus Recipe
- 2 cups sugar
- citrus like oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, sweet lemons, limes, and grapefruit
- Wash and scrub citrus, using a produce wash like Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash if you have it. Slice the citrus into round "sunshines" that are just under ¼-inch thick. Save the "butt" ends of the citrus to squeeze out the little bit of juice they have into the simple syrup for extra flavor.
- Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot half full of water to a gentle boil. Add the citrus slices and boil for five minutes. Turn off heat, drain the water from the pot, add fresh water to the citrus in the pot, and bring to a gentle boil again. Boil for five minutes. Repeat one more time. This blanching process removes some of the "bitterness" from the peel and pith, but you can skip this step entirely and jump ahead if you don't mind the bitterness.
- Remove the blanched citrus slices from the pot.
Make Simple Syrup for Candied Citrus
- Make simple syrup: To the same large, heavy bottomed pot, combine 2 cups sugar with 2 cups water. Squeeze in any juice from the "butt" ends of the citrus. Bring to a low boil, stir until sugar dissolves, then reduce heat to low. Add back the blanched citrus slices, making sure that all of the citrus is covered by the simmering syrup. Simmer for 40 minutes, turning the slices over at least once.
- Save the now-citrus-flavored syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator! You can use it for cocktails, tea, anywhere you'd use a syrup or sweetener.
- Dry the Citrus Slices: Heat oven to 170°F, or the lowest your oven will go.
- If you have wire racks for baking sheets, remove the citrus rounds from the syrup and place on the racks in a single layer. If you don't have racks, line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the citrus rounds on the baking sheets in a single layer. The citrus can touch, but do not let them overlap.
- Place as many baking sheets as will fit on your racks in the oven. Dry the citrus rounds in the oven until they are dry (they will still be a little sticky from the sugar) and firm enough to hold their shape when you pick them up with tongs, about 3 hours, flipping every hour.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven and remove the candied dried citrus to a wire rack to cool and dry further. Once cool, store in an airtight container. A re-sealable plastic bag works as well.