Adding a little zest to the holidays

Now that the Mayan calendar’s 14th Baktun has started with no hitches, it seems that there’ll be a 2013 after all – and the really good news (assuming the Values Institute at DGWB is better at predicting things than doomsday sites) is that food waste consciousness will be the top 2013 trend (with “meatless mainstreaming” coming in at number 4). Beth Hoffman, in an article she wrote for Forbes, seems to concur, listing food waste, humane animal treatment and food labelling as three issues of great importance that have finally made it into mainstream American consciousness.

It’s about time.

So, now that we’re all on the cusp of heightened food waste consciousness, I expect a few people will want to be making New Year’s resolutions to waste less, and if you’re looking for ways to do that, this article on is a good place to start.

One food that the CNN article doesn’t mention, is citrus peels. Peels almost inevitably get wasted, which is a shame, because a little zest can add a great accent to sweet and savoury dishes, mulled beverages, teas, chutneys, pickles, cocktails and more. So why do so many peels end up in the bin? Simple: people rarely have cause to use citrus peel on the same day that they use the fruit … and on days that they do use zest, they often end up wasting the fruit.

It’s about timing.

In 2012, we decided to do something about that in our home, and started freezing peels whenever we ate citrus fruits. That provided us with a handy supply of zest throughout the year, with a big surplus at year end – perfect for making holiday candy.

We made our candied peels with some brandy, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. The peels last for several months, and are versatile. They can be used in baking or as garnish, eaten straight or dipped in chocolate – and make a nice seasonal gift during the holidays.

Candied citrus peels

The extra bonus was the simple syrup infused with spice and citrus that was a byproduct of the process. It came in handy when we opened a bottle of red wine that was not as tasty as we’d hoped. We heated up the wine, and added one tablespoon of brandy along with two tablespoons of our new instant Glühwein syrup (patent pending) per serving – and, just like that, bad wine was transformed into very Christmasy mulled wine. I’m guessing the syrup will also be good for making spiced tea and cider.

Candied peel (8 cups)


  • 8 cups of citrus peels, sliced
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 cups sugar
  • ½ cup brandy
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 slices star anise


  • Thaw peels (if needed) and slice into various shapes. We used a combination of thawed orange, blood orange, lemon and lime peels, as well as the fresh peels of a red pummelo and an oroblanco grapefruit Bonnie Lee had just used in a savoury fruit stew. The fresh peels were very thick with pith, and ended up having a texture similar to gummy bears, with great grapefruit notes.
  • Submerge peels in water, and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat. Repeat again. This removes some of the bitterness from the pith.
  • Mix sugar and water. Boil for 10 minutes or so, until the syrup reached the thread stage (i.e., until syrup dripped from a spoon into cold water forms thin threads).
  • Add in the brandy, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and peels, and simmer until the pith is translucent. This took about 2 hours for our batch.
  • Let peels dry on wire rack until they are no longer sticky (this can take up to a day).
  • Roll peels in sugar, if desired.
Fruit stew

The fruit stew that sparked the candy making.

Thawed peels

Thawed peels

Peels being candied

Peels being candied

Rolling peels in sugar

Rolling peels in sugar

Instant Glühwein

Instant Glühwein (patent pending)


12 thoughts on “Adding a little zest to the holidays

    • Thanks – the only “problem” is that we have a lot of candied peel now. Fortunately, it freezes well, and we have one friend who’s planning to use a lot of them in her muffins.

  1. WOO HOO!! I’m giddy reading your first paragraph! Positively giddy. Oh wait…you’re making candy here. Must pay attention…

    Clicking links now. You rock.

    • Thanks – happy to New Year to you too. I guess it’s no surprise that we don’t like to waste wine more than anything else. In the winter, bad wine becomes Glühwein, and in the summer, Sangria.

  2. This is brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing another way to reduce food waste. I just did a post about enjoying warm lemon water in the mornings, and I’d love to reblog this to share your wonderful idea of saving those peels! Cheers, and keep up the great articles :) ~Gina
    PS: I’m with Shannon here in cheering on that EXCELLENT news you open with in your first paragraph.. Hooray!

  3. Reblogged this on People Excited About Co~Existence and commented:
    Jean-François has done it again! More excellent tips on reducing food waste, and since my last post was about enjoying freshly-squeezed lemon juice in warm water to start our days, I wanted to share this brilliant idea for saving and using those peels. Thanks so much to Jean-François, and if you’ve not visited him yet I’m sure you’ll enjoy. And check out his App for making zero-waste meals! Cheers, Gina

  4. You are such a clever chap. I would never have thought to freeze peel, but after reading this I will definitely save most peels. I already have a small ice cube tray with various zests in to add to pasta (so zingy even after freezing) and baking, but never the whole thing. The syrup/candied idea is good too. Must go out and buy some rubbish red wine to have occasion to try the leftover syrup!

    • Not so much clever as single minded. :)

      I would hate to think I’ve inspire anyone to buy rubbish wine. That being said, there’s no reason to throw the stuff out when it enters your life uninvited.

  5. Pingback: Weekend food waste roundup – 12 January 2013 | 222 million tons

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