Last week someone gave me a lovely ripe grapefruit from a backyard tree in Florida. Quite a gift when there’s 3 feet of snow on the ground.
The peel was so aromatic I couldn’t bear to compost it, so I did what my great-grandmother used to do: I made candied grapefruit peel. And while I was at it I made a bitter liqueur from the cooking water.
Candied grapefruit peel was a Christmas tradition at Nanny’s house, but I think it’s wonderful any time of year. It tastes like essence of grapefruitâ€”perfumed, and a little bit sharp. (I don’t remember Nanny ever making bitters from the cooking water, but I’m sure she would have loved the idea.)
To make the candied grapefruit peel:
Slice up some grapefruit peel and remove most of the white pith.
Put the slices of peel in a pot with enough water to cover them by about an inch. Add a pinch of salt.
Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer it for 15 minutes or so. Drain the peels and set aside the cooking water to make liqueur. Return the peels to the pot, add fresh water, bring it to a boil, and simmer it for another 15 minutes. Drain again (don’t forget to reserve the cooking water).
Now return the peels to the pot with about 1/2 cup sugar per grapefruit. Stir and lift them gently with a fork over low-medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Be careful about sticking. (This should take maybe 20 minutes.)
Once the liquid has evaporated, spread the candied peels out on wax paper to dry. (Nanny used to roll them in more sugar, but I don’t think it’s necessary.)
You have candied grapefruit peel!
To make the bitter grapefruit liqueur:
This recipe depends on what kind of alcohol you have. It’s easiest if you have 190 proof grain alcohol, but you can also make it with vodka if you can’t get grain alcohol.
If you have 190 proof grain alcohol: Bring the reserved cooking water to a simmer with 1/2 cup sugar per cup of water. Let it cool and then add 1/3 cup alcohol per cup of liquid.
If you have 100 proof vodka: Bring the reserved cooking water to a boil and reduce it by about a third. Now add 2/3 cup sugar per cup of water. Stir to dissolve. Let it cool and then add 1 cup of vodka per cup of liquid.
Bitter liqueurs like this one are a great way to get your digestive system ready for a meal. Take a little bit mixed with water (or something more creative) about a half hour before you eat. A classic aperitif.
Related post: Citrus season: pickled lemons.