Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Candied Orange Peel

A couple of days ago I began to write a post about a recipe that included homemade candied orange peel. I realized that it made more sense to write a post devoted to the candied peel first. Because I use homemade candied peel throughout the holiday season—in cakes, pies and breads—I will probably post recipes that use it more than once...if not this year, certainly in years to come.

Besides its presence in a wide variety of traditional holiday baked goods, candied peel makes a very nice Christmas candy—plain or dipped in dark chocolate. It is an old fashioned kind of homemade treat. My mother has memories of her grandparents making it at Christmas time. To this day it is one of her favorite holiday candies—I'm sure she would be disappointed if I didn't make at least one batch.

Since candied orange peel is easy to make there is no reason to settle for the inferior stuff that is sometimes sold commercially. Choose a day to make it when you have other activities to attend to at home. Once started, it doesn't take a lot of attention, just your presence in the house during its quiet and lengthy simmer on the back of the stove.

In addition to orange peel, lemon and grapefruit peel also candy beautifully. Whatever fruit you choose, seek out specimens that have thick skins so that the white layer of pith—which softens to a chewy, gumdrop-like texture during the cooking process—will be nice and fat. After multiple blanchings in boiling water, most of the natural bitterness of the pith is gone and the peels will have begun to soften. The transformation from a fibrous, bitter rind—suitable only for the compost heap—is made complete by a long slow simmer in a simple sugar syrup.

When the pith is translucent, the candying process is finished. I like to drain the now-thick syrup off and spread the peels out on wire racks to dry. When they have dried to the point that they are just slightly tacky to the touch—usually overnight, I like to toss them in granulated sugar. They can then be stored airtight at room temperature and eaten as a snack or diced and added to baked goods. If you are only going to be using them to bake with, they can be stored in their syrup in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

Candied Orange Peel

2 navel oranges (thick skinned oranges are best)
2 1/4 c. sugar, divided
1 3/4 c. water
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Top and tail the oranges and quarter them lengthwise. Pull the rind away from the flesh—scrape away any membrane that remains attached to the rind. Set the orange flesh aside for another use or a snack. Lay the pieces of rind on a cutting board and slice them lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips.

Place the strips of peel in a medium saucepan and add water to cover by an inch. Bring to a rapid boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the peels and discard the water. Cover the peels with more cold water and bring to a boil again, simmering and straining as before. Repeat one more time with fresh water.

After three blanchings

In a clean medium saucepan combine 2 cups of the sugar with 1 3/4 c. of water and the lemon juice. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the peels and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. The goal is to cook the peels at a bare simmer—you should only see a bubble or two on the surface of the syrup as the peels cook. Cook until the peels are translucent—about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours

Strain the citrus peels and place them, so they are not touching, on a wire rack. Let sit overnight to air-dry. Toss the candied peels in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, coating them thoroughly.

Strained finished peel
Spread out to dry
Tossed with sugar

Makes about 40 pieces of candies orange peel. Store the peels at room temperature in an airtight container.

(Recipe adapted from Four-Star Desserts, by Emily Luchetti)


CindyD said...

Could you do the final simmering in syrup in a crockpot?

Vittle me this... said...

love these!

Paige said...

Cindy, I don't remember the last time I used a crockpot, so I really don't know the answer to your question. Basically the sugar syrup needs to be at a very low simmer for about an hour and a half. It also needs to be uncovered (can you use a crockpot uncovered for cooking?) because as the peels cook, the syrup reduces. The other issue with a crockpot is that most of them are very wide. This would make it so that the syrup would reduce too rapidly and the pan might go dry.... The recipe only needs a medium sized saucepan--something like a 3 quart size.

Katrina said...

I made these last year after taking Nancy's holiday desserts class. They were really good. The kids loved them, too.

Unknown said...

I've made them from Nancy's recipe, too, but she has you drain the peels after they've cooked in the syrup for only half an hour. Leaving them overnight, as you suggest, makes them pick up less sugar when you roll them in it the next day, and I like that texture better. I've made them twice already, but my family gobbles them up so fast, I've yet to be able to use them in any recipe. Alas. Perhaps they're too good.

Unknown said...

If you were going to dip them in chocolate would you also roll them in sugar after they dried? And what type of chocolate would you suggest? These look wonderful!

Paige said...

Hello! I have dipped both sugared and unsugared ones. You can do it either way, but if you know when you make them that they are destined to be dipped in chocolate, you should leave them unsugared. If you are experienced with tempering chocolate, then a good quality dark chocolate is an excellent coating. If not, you should use something that is made specifically for coating (and doesn't require tempering) like Pâte à Glacer.