Help! My candied lemon peel tastes like . . . seafood !?!?!?!?!?
So strange. Although I'd never made candied lemon peel before, the process seemed really straightforward: boil peel, strain, boil again, strain, simmer in sugar water & lemon juice, dry, roll in sugar. In the end, it tasted really weird, not what I was expecting -- in the words of my partner, "throw that sh*t out, it tastes like oysters." Advice? Thoughts as to what happened?
I think the heat was the culprit, absent a reactive pan. Also, nobody mentioned anything about scrubbing the wax off of the lemon peels. I'm not sure but I think they still wax lemons or coat them with something similar. They're also filthy -- we always wash the lemons we use in our restaurant.
Additionally, I don't know where the OP is from, but I can tell you that this year (summer '10) the lemons and limes we're getting at our restaurant are small, bitter, dry and tasteless.
Suggestion: use Meyer lemons or back down on the cooking time. Also, what kind of zester did you use? Did you remove enough pith?
The stupidest thing that ever happened to me is that somehow salt got into my sugar box on the counter-top. It's too long to but, heck, the darned blueberry syrup I was making ended up tasting kinda like fish -- because of the salt.
The salt for sugar thing is a surprisingly common occurence.
Lemons have been crappy this year but I bought two very nice fat juicy ones today, so maybe the tide is turning.
Lemons, as well as lots of other types of produce, are coated with a very fine film of edible, non-digestible wax, from various sources like food-grade vegetable, petroleum, beeswax, and/or lac-resin based wax or resin. Organic fruits and vegetables don't have this coating. A vegetable brush and warm water will remove the wax. But that's not the weird flavor culprit.
I notice the OP mentioned something about simmering the peel in "sugar water" and lemon juice. That's a little odd technique, not the simple syrup, but using lemon juice at that stage of candying. I don't know how that would lead to an oyster flavor, however.
Just my thoughts.
You're one of my most favorite professionals who posts on this board.
I'm glad that you say the salt/sugar thing's more common than I thought. I just thought the guys in my kitchen who were, perhaps, rarer than they really are.
You're right about the wax... do you know if they use carnauba or is that just for making candy?
I felt a little queasy about the boiling and boiling mentioned in the OP's post, too. Too much heat and that lemon oil's gonna funk right up...
We're still in a conundrum about the oyster flavor...
P.S.... Where did you get fat, juicy lemons, beside perhaps Dean & DeLuca? The crap I've been getting from suppliers is like dry, bitter, shredded tissue paper inside, with peels that aren't dense nor oily at all...
Oh, why thank you so much for the compliment!
Btw, I checked out your restaurant's website recently, I used to live in Hartford and periodically check to see what's going on there. I don't remember how I got to your site, through kattyeyes, probably. I like the jazz options at your place.
The salt/sugar issue may well be the guys in your kitchen; I had employees that would regularly dose my coffee with other stuff that doesn't go with coffee, jokingly and lovingly of course...
Carnauba is still on the approved list for coating vegetables. It's a natural vegetable wax and yes, is used in tempered chocolate. The lac-resin is from the Lac bug, but not considered an animal by product, nor is beeswax. I should get into the habit of washing my produce more often...
I got my lemons from my local grocery store. The quality was a bit of a shocker because their produce is not usually very good. We've had a spate of bad citrus here for a few months.
Hopefully the OP will try the candied lemon peel again with complete success.
As far as the oyster taste goes, no matter how hard we try, sometimes culinary conundrums are not ours to solve.
what kind of pan did you use to blanch the peels? oysters can often have a metallic taste, so i'm wondering if there was something wrong with your pot and the metal leached into them...?
my only other thought is that you overdid it with the boiling and somehow turned the natural lemon oils rancid with exposure to excessive heat - rancid oil tastes fishy.