The following recipe came from my maternal grandmother, who was raised in the Sephardic Jewish community of Izmir. The making of jams, confitures and sweets was an important part of every household, and the guests were greeted with an assortment of small plates of these delicacies, along with coffee and cold water.
Citrus rinds were also part of the selection, and pomelo, the largest citrus fruit, was used to make the tastiest sweets, as I’ve done here. It was fascinating to watch the peels transform from bitter, spongy and inedible food waste, into addictive shiny and aromatic sweets.
Though the process of making these sweets is a bit lengthy, their wonderful flavor and unique texture is definitely worth it. Try it and enjoy.
* It is important to use a large pomelo, with thick rind. The larger, the better.
* While I would prefer using the juicier white pomelo, I could only find pink ones, which is why part of the sweets turned pinkish. If you can find white pomelo, the sweets will end up with a more consistent color.
* Serve the pomelo flesh as is, or use it to prepare sweet-savory salads. A recipe for one can be found HERE.
* Check HERE for a recipe for quince sweets, from the same origin, and HERE for more information about Sephardic cuisine.
Makes: 60-70 sweets
Prep time: 30 minutes
Soaking time: a couple of days, as explained in the recipe
Cooking time: about 1 hour
Drying time: 2-3 days
1-2 large pomelo, with a thick rind
Sugar (quantity explained in the recipe)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1. With a sharp knife, remove the pomelo top. Make eight incisions in the rind, and peel off the sections. With a small sharp knife, remove the greenish zest from each section, and cut into 5-6 pieces. Place in a wide, heavy bottom pot, cover with water and place a plate on top, to prevent the pieces from floating.
2. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, carefully remove the plate with kitchen tongs (it’s hot!), and drain in a large colander. Pour cold water on to cool. Once cooled, squeeze the spongy pieces (do not worry, they will return to their original shape!) and return to the pot.
3. Once again, cover with water and plate. Keep at room temperature for 5-6 hours, or overnight. Drain and repeat the squeezing/soaking in water twice more. Taste the water squeezed out of one piece, to determine if the rinds are still bitter or not, and if you need to repeat the process. Once the pieces are no longer bitter (a slight bitterness is fine), squeeze them again and measure them in cups.
4. Place the squeezed pieces in wide pot. Add 1 cup sugar and 1½ cups water, for each 1 cup squeezed pieces, and the lemon juice, and mix gently. Cover and keep at room temperature for about 3 hours, until the pieces are plump again, and the sugar dissolved.
5. Mix gently, cover the pot, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to minimum, uncover the pot and cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until the syrup is completely absorbed in the pieces, and they are transparent and shiny. (Check closely towards the end of the cooking time). Let cool to room temperature.
6. Line a sheet pan with wax paper and place the pieces over it, in one layer, leaving a bit of space between them. Cover loosely with wax paper (to prevent dust). Leave to dry in a cool ventilated place, for 1-2 days, turning the pieces twice, before serving.
7. To keep: arrange the pieces in an air-tight container, separating the layers with wax paper. The sweets will keep, in a cool dark place, for about 2 weeks.