When my mother-in-law, Jane, was a girl, her mother would make candied grapefruit peel every Christmas. I’ve heard, for years now, about how wonderful that was, and how much she loved it, and how you just can’t buy it anymore.
I had never had any candied grapefruit, though I’ve heard of candied citrus peel, so a while ago, I decided to try making some. After all, I love grapefruit, and, well, Jane loved it so, and it was probably worth trying, plus, if nothing else, it might earn me some “good daughter” points.
I did some research, and, do you know what I found out? That there were precious few recipes for candied grapefruit peel out there. Orange? Of course. Lemon? Definitely. Grapefruit? Not so much. Finally, after much googling, and some conferring with others, I decided to give it a try. To wing it. It was all pretty much the same process.
Do you know how to make candied citrus peel? It’s an experience, let me tell you. You start out with a bunch of fruit, maybe 5 or 6 whole grapefruits, and you scrub them, since, you know, you’ll be eating the outside.
Then you peel it (salvaging the actual fruit, or, as the recipes say, “reserve for another use”), making sure there’s no actual fruit pulp clinging to the rind, and trimming off any membrane.
Then you cut it into teeny-tiny slivers (think julienne). All of it.
Then you soak it for a while.
Then you blanch the peel in boiling water for anywhere from 10-30 minutes, drain it and rinse it off.
Then you do that all again.
And yet again.
The idea, I think, is to wash out much of the bitterness from the pith, leaving mostly the essential citrus flavor.
THEN you make a simple syrup and boil the twice-blanched peels for, again, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. (Mind you, using a pressure cooker does reduce the cook times a bit, but it’s still a major project.)
Then you drain the peels (I saved the grapefruit syrup to use in sangria – which was a good move!), spread them out, and let them dry. For a really long time.
Finally, you toss them in sugar and voila! Candied grapefruit.
Pshew! No wonder this was a special Christmas treat! It was a-maz-ing!
So anyway, I presented a bag of candied grapefruit to my mother-in-law, and, well, while she thanked me, and told me again much she loved what her mother made for her, that was pretty much it. I’m not even sure she ever tasted it.
A few weeks ago, I found myself with a surplus of grapefruit, and I took the better part of a day and made another batch of candied grapefruit peel.
But this time, I decided that I wasn’t going to share it with someone who so clearly didn’t appreciate it.
Yes, it was petty of me. And kind of childish. And, once I’d divvied it all up among other, more appreciative people, I regretted my stinginess. So much so, that I bought another bag of grapefruit and determined to make more last weekend, for the express purpose of sharing with my mother-in-law.
Friday evening, my husband received a phone call from the Home.
His mom had fallen, and, although she did press her emergency call button, by the time help came, it was too late. She’d been in congestive heart failure for several months now, and her heart finally gave out.
She had a DNR order in place, so there was nothing that could be done.
And I really wish I’d shared my candied grapefruit with her.