A few weeks back I made a small batch of candied orange peel and offered it to my grandchildren when they visited. To my surprise, they loved it, contrary to my belief that this would not appeal to children! So I am thinking of making some for the Christmas cake this year, and coating the rest in chocolate for tiny tasty morsels or gifts.
At this time of year one starts to think of Christmas cakes. Since moving to America, I have used dried cranberries and cherries instead of crystallized citrus peel and glacé cherries. This is because the readily available citrus peel and cherries all contain high fructose corn syrup.
The secret to making good crystallized or candied orange peel is to remove the pith and boil the peel for at least an hour before cutting it into strips and boiling it in the syrup. If it is not really tender, it will be hard and rubbery once crystallized.
Serves: 7-8 ounces
- 4 oranges
- 2 cups sugar
- 2+1 cup water, approximately
- Remove the peel of each orange in four segments.
- Scrape away the white pith from each segment – I find that a teaspoon works well.
- Place the peel in a saucepan, cover it with water and bring to the boil.
- Simmer until the peel is very soft, 1-1½ hours, replenishing boiling water as needed.
- Drain and cut the peel into thin strips with a pair of kitchen shears.
- Make the syrup by combining the sugar with I cup of water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling point while stirring, so that the sugar is dissolved by the time it starts to boil.
- Boil without stirring for 18-20 minutes, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (238⁰F).
- Add the peel and keep it at a rolling boil for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the syrup and drain. When cool enough to handle, separate the strips and arrange on a cooling rack over paper, to catch up all the sticky drips.
- Leave for 1-3 days to dry, depending on how it is to be used.
If using for baking, leave it to dry another day before sealing in bags. Store in a cool place – fridge or freezer - until needed.
For thicker pieces of peel, a thin layer of pith can be left. It changes the texture but not the flavor.
The process for other citrus such as lemons and grapefruit is a little more complicated, involving pre-soaking, boiling and discarding of water a couple of times.
Use the oranges as follows - Cut away any white pith from the oranges with a sharp knife and remove the segments carefully from the housing membranes. The orange segments can be served as is, or added to a salad or yoghurt.
The remaining citrus-flavored syrup can be used as a (very sticky!) sauce over ice-cream. It tastes so good that it seems a pity to discard!