Friday, November 12, 2010

Candied peel and Grandma's Currant Buns

It is a very lovely evening outside tonight. The sky is blue, the week is finished, and I have another *homemade* adventure to report. This combines all of my favourite things; frugality, resourcefulness, a degree of retro, a family link. Yep, it's all here.
I'm talking about candied peel. As soon as I saw these amazing lemons at the farmer's market I knew those peels were too darn good to throw into the compost heap. I knew, straight away, that they would have to be turned into the star of the show.
Now, if you're not a candied peel person I urge you to give it another try. When it's homemade out of beautiful lemons and oranges it's sweet and citrusy and better than anything you can buy. And did I mention cheap?! You'd be throwing the skins away otherwise, what better starting material can there be? Here's how to make it:
1. Score the skins of your citrus fruit in nice long cuts down the length of the fruit so that it will peel off in nice neat sections. I used two NZ navel oranges and two lemons for this trial batch. Then pull off the skin leaving a big thick layer of pith on it because this will make it thick and juicy when it's candied.
2. Put the skins in a saucepan and cover with cold water, then simmer for about 40 min until they're really tender.
3. Meanwhile make a sugar syrup with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water (1 cup sugar, 1/2 c water) and put it in the slowcooker. Then, drain the peels, slice thinnner or chop into small pieces if you like, and put them in the sugar syrup. Leave the lid off the slow cooker and give them a stir every half hour or so. They won't burn in there, and they need a good long time to soak up that syrup. In my slow cooker there is a very gentle simmer around the edges of the bowl when it's on high, this was perfect for cooking the peel in the syrup.
4. Cook for 3 or so hours, maybe more, until there's only a very small amount of syrup left. It took about half a day in my slow cooker. Spread the peels on baking paper to dry, this could take a few days. I like mine sticky so I didn't bother with this step. If you like, you can roll them in sugar while they're sticky and warm to get that nice sugary coating. 
Now, a recipe starring candied peel. These are currant buns with peel in them. I was asking my Mum about these this morning and she said OH YES I KNOW ALL ABOUT THOSE! GRANDMA USED TO MAKE THEM, DON'T YOU REMEMBER? As it happens I don't, because both Grandma and Grandad McLean died when I was very little. I don't know what her recipe was but I went through my old old old cookbooks till I found one that was probably similar. If you don't mind, I'll call them Grandma McLean's Currant and Peel Buns, because now that's what they are in my mind.
Grandma McLean's Currant and Peel Buns
1 and 1/2 c flour
2 t baking powder
3 T sugar
40 g butter
2 T candied peel, chopped fine
1/4 to 1/2 c currants, raisins, or sultanas
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c milk, plus 1 or 2 T if required
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius (or 400 degrees F). Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, rub in the butter with your finger tips. Add the sugar, peel, and sultanas, and mix to break up the lumps of peel. Mix the milk and egg together then add in and mix gently until you have a soft dough, adding more milk if you need to. It should be just a little softer than scone dough. Pat out into a circle on baking paper, then mark the circle into wedges. If you like, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 min. Perfect with a strong cup of tea and a nice sit down.
And now I'm off for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Have a lovely weekend everyone.


  1. They look a bit like sugar buns of which Iam very fond but I was thinking from your description of rock cakes which are smaller and harder, kind of crumbly and absoluteley delicious. They get better as they age (even two weeks in the tins and still great). As you can tell not everyone likes them. That peel is inspiring, just got to find the right citrus.

  2. Nice looking buns! (got to be careful who you say that too - last night I was tired and watched the most vacuous of all TV programs ever, some kind of "inner beauty outer beauty" contest. The people had to be the most self absorbed, vain and shallow people I'd seen for awhile, so clearly we have different definitions of "inner beauty.")

    Those buns, though, have inner and outer beauty.

  3. Thanks for the recipes, they are both great and absolutely the type of things I like to eat. I will be trying them both

  4. Well, that's all just lovely. We'll have to give it a go, maybe put some in our Christmas stollen this year.

  5. ooh yum, thank you for the idea and recipe! i am a big fan of candied peel and haven't made any since i was a child.
    and now our lemon tree seems to be recovering from its 'sooty mould' it's probably safe to use the peel!

  6. Oh my. To have local citrus fruit is so exotic to me! I wish I didn't cringe every time I buy them and know their climate mileage is ridiculous.
    Beautiful. And I also love the little cloth your jar of peel sits on!