Last week we were invited to celebrate Tsiknopempti which is the equivalent to Fat Tuesday, but Greeks celebrate by tsiknisma which means barbecuing a piece of meat so you can literally smell it all over the neighborhood. It signifies the beginning of mardi gras but also the fact that lent will start and meat will not be eaten for 40 days.
Well our hosts had various trees in their backyard and one of them had this large, uneven fruit that kind of looked like an ugly lemon. So we took a few home. It turns out this is citron, a fruit that has a wonderful aroma but bitter.
The first thought was to make a spoon sweet which is what usually is made. The reason for this was, that often there were just too many fruit around and not enough time to eat them. Back when people had fruit in their gardens, so they preserved them by making spoon sweets, the same way other cultures make jam.
I didn’t have too many so I decided to have them candied. Now I had never done this before, but I found a video tutorial and they came out perfect. I served some to my mom and dad who are my strictest and most honest critics, and they loved them.
These are at first sweet and a bit sour ,and then a slight bitterness which is desirable in this case.
Now you have to simmer them before, for about a half hour otherwise they will be too bitter. You may want to skip this step if you are doing lemon, but for citron, bergamot, and bitter orange (nerantzi), you will need to follow this step.
Greece and particularly Athens is full of these citrus trees, many city streets are lined with bitter orange trees.
We know that nutritionally, the skin of fruit particularly citrus ones are rich in antioxidants, a good amount though will be lost during the heating. Nevertheless, these make a much better snack than a typical chocolate bar: no fat no additives, just a bit of fruit and sugar (I used no glucose).
These are not only nice as a snack they can be used in cakes but also served nicely with a cup of Greek coffee. Oh, and they make great little edible gifts.
For this recipe I preferred to cut the fruit in little strips rather than cubes
Candied Greek Citron
- 4 cups sliced citron strips (about 2-3 inches long)
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 1 cups water
1. Cut the citron in half and remove the juicy part (it is very small), do not remove the pulp which is somewhat foamy (remember we are not making candied peels but rather fruit).
2. Cut in strips about 2-3 inches long (or whatever shape you like ), cubes is common too.
3. Place the citron pieces in a pot , fill with water and heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Drain the citron pieces and place back into the pot, add the sugar and water and simmer, stirring until the temperature reaches 230 F. I recall it took about 1 ½ hour, but you should use a thermometer (I did).
5. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate.
6. Wait for a few minutes a place them (without touching) on a rack, or plates (if you have no rack. Let them dry for 24 hours.
7. On a plate pour some sugar and roll the fruit pieces in sugar, place them on plates and let them dry for another 24 hours.
8. Store in airtight container.