It's Fruit Cake and Stollen Season!
Updated: Jan 4
Yes, you can buy candied peel and marzipan (if you can find it), but you can easily make your own
The Peel Problem
Every year at this time when I'm embarking on the annual fruit cake project I spend a few minutes wishing I could find good candied peel in the grocery store. But alas. I cannot. And if I do by chance stumble upon a packet it invariably comes with multi-syllable additives that I don't know and don't want to look up. So, every year at this time, I end up making my own. It's remarkably easy. And so, so much better than the commercial variety.
Homemade Candied Peel
Adapted from The Boreal Feast
3 medium organic oranges
3 medium organic lemons
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus extra for tossing
1 1/2 cups water
*if necessary, ie if your fruit is on the large side, increase water and sugar by 1/2 cup each to ensure the peel is completely submerged.
Quarter and peel oranges and lemons--it's easiest to separate the flesh from the peel by working your thumb between flesh and peel at one end and gently pushing to the other end until the fruit is free. (Use peeled orange segments in fruit or vegetable salads; add chopped peeled lemon quarters to spaghetti sauces or meaty stews; use a quarter lemon for every 4 cups of sauce or stew).
Slice peel into 1/4 inch strips. Transfer to a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, discarding water, and leave the peel in the pot.
Add sugar and water to the pot and mix thoroughly. Bring to the boil again over medium heat, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, until the peel is translucent.
Remove peel from syrup using a slotted spoon (reserve the syrup for use in cocktails). Drain peel on a rack set over a baking sheet. You may have to separate pieces that have stuck together. When peel has cooled, toss in granulated sugar and transfer to a covered container for storage in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to three months, but the longer it's stored, the harder the peel will get, and the more pre-soaking in your favourite fruitcake booze it will require.
Makes about 3 cups candied peel.
Tip: to remove wax from citrus fruit (even organic citrus fruit is sometimes waxed) place in a single layer in a colander in a bowl and pour boiling water over top, jostling the fruit so that the water reaches every surface. Transfer to a bowl of cool water and scrub each piece of fruit with a vegetable brush. Dry thoroughly with a tea towel.
The Marzipan Problem
Here in my small Canadian city north of 60, the problem isn't one of supply, the problem is me. Our local deli carries cooking marzipan and all kinds of prepared marzipan treats, but I never seem to get there soon enough, and by the time I do, it's all sold out. So, many years ago I learned how to make my own, and published the recipe in The Boreal Gourmet. Since then I've changed it up a bit and follow a simpler recipe, still using some ground whole almonds, but eliminating the whole sugar syrup step.
This is the kind of marzipan you can roll out and cover a fruitcake with, or form into a log for the middle of a stollen.
Using a combination of ground, whole almonds and almond meal makes the marzipan less oily and easier to manipulate than if you used whole almonds alone, and more flavourful than if you used almond meal alone. Most recipes call for blanched almonds but I find that step unnecessary.
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup finely ground natural almond meal (Bob's Red Mill brand is great)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 large egg white
2 tsp almond extract (this is vital for that intense almond flavour)
Grind whole almonds in a food processor until the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add almond meal and icing sugar, pulsing to combine.
With the machine running, add egg white and almond extract. Process until the marzipan gathers into a rough ball.
Turn out onto a counter and knead briefly, gathering any stray bits, and press into a log. Wrap tightly in plastic and seal in a resealable bag. Store in the fridge for 3 weeks maximum, or in the freezer for 2 months. Bring to room temperature before using.
Makes about 13 oz.