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Mottainai: Candied Yuzu Peel

Yuzu peels sugared and drying

'Tis the season for yuzu, and once again I'm venturing into the world of marmalade and shu; however, this year I'm trying something a bit different. Inspired by a homemade brew our local sake shop master made of yuzu and nihon shu (sake), I did a version of my usual plopping of fruit in a jar with rock sugar and alcohol. A bit rushed, I neglected to closely review my own instructions. I did not cut the fruit as I should have, so the past three weeks whole sunny yuzu soaked away in our shu closet. Based on a sample of a previous brew resurrected the the back of said closet where, peels and all, it languished for six months of more (very bitter), I opted to be slightly more prompt.
Yuzu's flavor is a delightful balance of bitter and sour that is gently tamed by the sugar that joins it in a jar of marmalade or jug of yuzu shu. The sake master warned that including the peel at all would make it too bitter, and if that's true it's too late for this batch. Mildly fearful, I removed the nearly whole fruits (I'd trimmed off the stemmy bits before the first plopping.), cut them in half, peeled, and re-plopped the fruit into the jug. My husband says they now look like little alien brains. Ah, well.

Yuzu Nihon shu peel and flesh
Left with a bowl of sake infused yuzu peel too beautiful even for the compost bin, I decided to make candied peel. Sweet, bitter and gently gooey it seemed a perfect use for my lovely leftovers and a fun experiment.  It might even make a nice gift.

Candied Nihon Shu'd Yuzu Peel
15 or so yuzu, washed
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup peel water
Sugar for dredging

Cut and peel the fruit. Save the fruit for later. Cut the peels into thinnish strips; most recipes recommend 1/4 inch. Bring a pan of water to a boil and when it's good and rolling toss in the peels. Boil for 15 minutes and then drain. (Save at least half a cup and set aside.) Do this twice more if using fresh fruit. (See my caveats below.) Heat the sugar and both waters and bring to a simmer. Stir to make sure the sugar thoroughly dissolves, and then let simmer covered for 10 minutes. Plop in the yuzu peel, put the lid back on, and set the timer for 45 minutes. Check periodically to make sure it's not burning, of course, and to satisfy curiosity. Drain and save the syrup for later. Dredge the peel in the sugar and lay out on a rack to dry. Wait two days (with some sampling for scientific purposes, of course) and then pack up in an airtight container.

Yuzu peels post-boil and awaiting sugar!
Usual round of caveats
If you use straight-up yuzu from a local farmer or a favorite farmers market, then you'll have to do things a bit differently. My yuzu had soaked for some three weeks in sake, so I deemed that they only needed one boil. Most recipes recommend at least two or three to diminish the bitterness and thoroughly blanch them.

My innards went right back into the jug for more soaking, but this may not be an option for everyone. Some folks suggest juicing and then substituting that juice for the water in the final syrup. I'll also throw out the idea  of saving some peel back, grabbing a bit of ginger and perhaps an apple or two and making marmalade. I also know there are some rockin' yuzu pickle recipes out there, but I'm still waiting to get one from my Japanese teacher. Once I get it and give it a shot, I'll surely write about it here.

The initial peel boiling water looked too nice to pitch, too, so I used some of it to make my syrup. I still have a fair amount of it to use in some way I don't know of yet. Again, once I do I imagine I'll write about it here. Maybe in the bath?

The resulting syrup is simply amazing. It would, as one blogger suggested, make an awesome cocktail base, a frosting adding, or a nice mixer in a cup of hot water. It's also quite nice, ahem, with a spoon.

Dredging the peel is easy, although I tried to work fast to make sure the peel retained enough moisture for the sugar to properly adhere. Some pieces I only sugared on one side and some I didn't sugar at all  just to see what might happen.


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