2 - 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Candied Orange Peel

This year I’m celebrating the holidays with a “12 Days of Christmas” series on the abundances of our kitchen and garden. Share your experiences, too, and happy holidays!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
8 oranges’ peels, candied
7 dozen pounds of pork … and fat to render

6 farm-fresh eggs,
5 daikon pickled for banh mi,
4-some gallons of beer,
3 quarts of applesauce,
2 half-gallons of sauerkraut,
and 1 quart of yogurt, homemade.

The New Year is behind us, but we are only on the 8th day of Christmas — can you believe it?

Today’s treat is one that I’ve made every Christmas. I don’t know if everyone enjoys candied orange peel, but I do know it has some fans who clamor for it annually. A few people have asked for the recipe, and I’m almost loath to give it up because it’s my trademark holiday treat, but it does take some time and dedication to create, so most people really don’t jump on the bandwagon.

On my honeymoon in 1995, we stumbled across this little cookbook, which contains the recipe I use. You can also candy the peels of lemons or grapefruit. After it’s done, let it dry on a rack; the longer it dries, the harder it will become (and the longer it will store). Don’t leave it too soft or it will turn mushy in the container, but I think it’s most delicious when it’s fairly tender. You can also dip it in melted chocolate if you wish. If at all possible, use organic fruit so that the peels will be unsprayed.

If you are ready to dive in, here’s the recipe:

  • 4 large oranges – navels are perfect (OR 6 lemons or limes, OR 2 large grapefruit)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • About 2 cups superfine sugar (OR 2 cups granulated sugar, processed in a food processor with a metal blade until the texture of the sugar becomes very fine) (Note: I usually skip the “superfine” step.)
  1. Cut away a small slice from the top and bottom of the fruit and score the skin into quarters. Peel away the skin, leaving the pith attached.
  2. Put the peel in a saucepan and cover it with water. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Drain in a colander, rinsing with cold water. Repeat boiling, draining, rinsing twice more (3 times altogether). After the third rinsing, put peel back in saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.
  3. Cut the peel into 1/4-inch slices.
  4. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, water and corn syrup in the saucepan and boil 2-3 minutes. Add the peel slices. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until almost all the syrup has boiled away. (Note: This can take almost an hour here in Colorado, so plan accordingly. Your timing will vary depending on your altitude, however — I’m at a mile above sea level.) Do not let the sugar caramelize. (Note: This means BURN! It will want to get burnt around the edges as the sugar syrup has almost completely boiled away.) Remove from heat.
  5. Spread half the superfine sugar on a large platter or a baking sheet lined with wax paper (or on a counter lined with wax paper if you are lazy like me). Use a fork to remove the peel from the saucepan and spread the peel on the sugar. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the citrus peels. Toss the peels around in the sugar as they cool.
  6. When completely cool, put the strips in single layers on a cake rack to dry for 12 to 24 hours. Store in an airtight container or tightly sealed plastic bag. (Note: Put the rack over a tray, pan or the waxed paper to catch dripping sugar — it is sticky and messy at this stage.)

Yield: About 1 pound

Will keep: 6 months to a year

When you are finished, you might have syrup left in the saucepan — save it in a jar in the refrigerator and use it for cocktails or over pancakes. You will also have a lot of sugar left over, which can be added to other baked goods or sprinkled on extravagant orange-cinnamon toast, or used in baking; it will impart a strong orange flavor.

If you double or triple the recipe, you do not need to increase the tossing/sprinkling sugar accordingly; you can decrease the amounts somewhat to minimize waste.

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