use it all up: candied citrus peels

Food waste is a massive problem in the United States (and in many other countries). A recent study reports that on average, each American wastes a whole pound of food every day. There are so many problems with wasting food, but if it’s not being composted, it’s especially bad.

Landfills are not aerated for organic matter to break down. Therefore any natural waste in a landfill creates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide. According to the (pre-Trump) Environmental Protection Agency, landfills account for 34% of all methane emissions in the U.S., meaning any un-composted organic matter is contributing to climate change. And in case you haven’t heard, the forecast for the earth’s future is a toss-up between bad and terrible.

For a few years now, I’ve been patting myself on the back for composting all our food scraps. But lately I’ve realized, there’s actually more I can do. For centuries, people used up nearly 100% of all food products out of necessity. But today, some of us are lucky enough to enjoy an economic position where we have the luxury to throw away food.

I’ve been trying to find ways to use up more of my food scraps. This winter I’ve gotten really into making candied orange peels. I save the peels in a container in the fridge, and once I have enough I make a batch which lasts for a couple weeks. They’re delicious plain, on yogurt, or even on ice cream! They’re not going to save the world (unfortunately!), but they’re saving me money, and if you don’t have access to compost, this is a great way to reduce your methane footprint!

Candied Citrus Peels

~4 cups of citrus peels (oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, lemons, pomelos…)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/4 fresh lemon juice

one/ Slice the peels to desired size. This might be strips or bite-sized chunks. It’s good if you leave a little of the fruit on the peel, but if you’ve consumed the whole fruit, that’s fine too!

two/ Boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add the peels and boil for 2 minutes. Then drain the peels in a colander and rinse with cold water. Repeat this process twice more (3 times total). It’s important to do this so the peels aren’t too bitter.

three/ Rinse the pot and add the 4 cups of water. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the peels, cover, and reduce the heat so that the syrup simmers very gently for 1.5-2 hours. Stir occasionally during this time.

four/ Once the peels are soft, remove from the heat and let the peel sit in the syrup at room temperature overnight (~10 hours).

five/ The next day, spoon the peels and the syrup into a jar with a tight lid. Store in the fridge.

six / If you want dried candied peels, remove pieces from the syrup and lay them on a rack or plate until they are the desired texture. Store in a jar in the cupboard.

Note: I’ve tried reducing the amount of sugar, and the result is very meh. I recommend using the full 2 cups of sugar!