It is amazing how many tasty treats can be made with things most of us would just toss away. That they were made in the first place tells us that the genius behind them was a frugal person not wanting to waste what could be otherwise useful.
Just like the Kumquat “Spoon Sweets” I’ve made, these candied lemon peels would have traditionally been served as a treat for guests to enjoy, and still are today. They get their name from the practice of serving one piece at a time on a spoon which would be placed on a pretty little glass plate. After the guest would eat the treat, the spoon would likely still have some syrup on it, so these treats would be served with a glass of water for the guest to put the spoon in. Swirling the spoon around would blend the syrup in the water for a continued treat. Often other desserts and a nice, hot cup of Greek coffee will be served alongside the spoon sweet.
These treats can be used in much the same way as jam and other kinds of preserves. They make a tasty topping for ice cream and yogurt and any leftover syrup can be used for pancakes and waffles. I like to top my karithopita (Greek walnut cake) with some, and it’s the perfect enhancement for a nice cold glass of iced tea. Or you can just have a little treat straight from the jar!
Making these spoon sweets does take a little time, but thankfully the vast majority of that time is completely hands off. The lemon peels will need to soak in order to soften them which requires nothing more on your part. The actual cooking part takes a bit of time, but once it gets going will just need to be checked on but not necessarily hovered over.
Greek Candied Lemon Spoon Sweet Recipe
- 1 lb. lemon rind, cut into long slivers
- 8 cups cold water
- 8 cups sugar
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
You will need to use lemons with thin rinds that don’t have a thick, white pith layer. If your lemons have a thick rind, you will need to trim out much of the pith so you don’t get a bitter product. The variety of lemons I used was Meyer and it made a lovely spoon sweet.
Wash the outsides of your lemons well, and cut them in half along their equator. Then juice them, being careful to not tear the rind. It’s best to use a citrus juicer instead of squeezing them. I like to put my juice into 1/2 cup sized containers, then put them into the freezer. I take them out as needed. I know many people also like to freeze them in ice cube trays, then store them in plastic freezer bags.
After the lemons are juiced, remove any pulp still attached to the rind. (This pulp is great for acidifying soil for plants like blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, etc. so don’t just toss it. It’s also a great nutrient boost for other types of plants, too.) Take each section of peel and cut it into thin slices. I did this by cutting each of the halves in half, then cut that into 3 to 4 strips, depending on how large the lemon was.
Place your peels into a large stock pot, and add the water, making sure that all the peels are covered by water. Cover the pot and allow it to sit for up to 24 hours.
After the peel has soaked, remove the cover, add the sugar and cinnamon stick, and set the heat to high. Bring almost to a boil, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the syrup is cooked down by at least half. The lemon peel should be translucent, and when some of the syrup is poured onto a cool plate it should be thick enough to leave a trail when you run a finger through it.
Pour the hot lemon peel and syrup into sterilized jars. The high sugar content will make these shelf-stable in a cool and dark cupboard, or it can be kept in the refrigerator (though this may cause the sugar to crystalize). It will be best served at room temperature. Enjoy!