Candied citrus peel is an ingredient that I am very familiar with. It is commonly used in all kinds of European style baked goods found around the holidays — like rich fruit cakes, traditional Italian panettone, German stollen and something called panforte, which is more of a cross between a fruit cake and a confection.
Candied peel made from just about any citrus fruit (lemon, orange or grapefruit) can also be enjoyed as a confection itself. Many European families make huge pots of it during the holidays and either roll it in sugar or dip it in chocolate to serve on their dessert tables or give as gifts. If you’ve never had them before, you can generally find them in upscale chocolate artisan shops during the holidays.
They are ridiculously delicious and addictive but usually come with a high price tag because of the work that goes into making them. They are more tedious to make than difficult, so if you are looking for a great kitchen projects to keep the kids busy over the holidays — this one is it.
I recently received a sample jar of spiced honey creme from Honey Ridge Farms — they just so happen to be one of my absolute favorite honey manufacturers, and are based out of Washington state. They offer a full line of deliciously scented, raw honey creme that you can use to replace that other processed stuff you might be using.
I had a candied orange peel project lined up to share on the blog, and since I always use some honey in the soaking syrup, I definitely wanted to use some of it there. I have found that the addition of the honey keeps the peel moist much longer because of the hygroscopic nature of honey.
Making candied peel isn’t difficult at all, but there are a few things to remember:
1. Use organic oranges if possible, since any pesticide residue will be retained in the peel of any conventionally grown fruit
2. Buy oranges with a thick peel because the skin is easier to remove
3. I make candied peel for many different applications so I use both the peel and the fruit. After I finish making the peel and remove it from the syrup, I add the segmented fruit and make a delicious orange jam. I sometimes use both in my chocolate fruit and nut cake but you can also enjoy the jam as is on toast, sandwiches, serve next to your favorite roast or add it to your yogurt or ice cream. Greek families make many types of jams that they call glyko tou koutaliou or spoon jam. The jam is not pasteurized, but will keep (covered) in the refrigerator for several days.
4. Segment the orange rind into manageable sections. I have found that 6 segments work well and do not break apart when you peel the rind away from the fruit. If they are still too large for you, can cut them in half later on.
5. You will simmer the rinds in hot water 4 times and change the water each time to remove the bitterness that is boiled out of the pith and into the water. Pouring off the water each time and adding fresh water to continue the process, will prevent any bitterness in the rind. Cooking the rind adequately at this stage is also what gives you the perfect al dente texture. The rind will be too firm if you cook it any less.
6. Once the orange segments have softened, you will remove the pith with a sharp paring knife and then add them to your prepared sugar syrup. This gives you a substantial piece of rind that you can then toss into the syrup.
If you are the kind of person who likes to give away platters of homemade treats for the holidays, these would be delicious to add to your repertoire. If you are like me and tend to overindulge in candy during the holidays, this candied orange peel somehow makes you feel a little less guilty.
Candied Orange Peel
4 large oranges
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 jar of HRF cinnamon honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (remove the fruit from the casing will yield some juice, use this in the syrup)
1 small cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves **optional
NOTE: You will need a total of 1 cup of liquid to make the syrup. I squeeze out as much of the orange juice from the orange after I have removed the fruit segments from the white membrane. Depending on how juicy the oranges are, you will get a total of 1/4 to 1/2 cup of orange juice. Place this in your measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way with water and then add it to the pot with the rest of the ingredients.
First rinse all of your oranges under cool water, then use a small paring knife to cut them into 6 sections.
Peel away the sections from the inside fruit. Once you have removed the peel from all of the oranges, put them into a medium size pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a very slow simmer for 30-45 minutes. After the time has elapsed, pour off the water and repeat this procedure another 3 times (total of 4 times).
Next, use the sharp paring knife and remove the orange fruit from the membranes. First remove all of the pith from around the fruit. You will see the thin white lines of the membrane as they separate each segment, so cut just inside the membrane on both sides and scoop out the fruit. Place the fruit in a small bowl, and squeeze all of the juice from the remaining membrane pieces then throw the membrane away.
The membrane is what’s left. Squeeze out all of the orange juice into the bowl with the segmented oranges, and throw this away…
Keep the good stuff and set it aside…
While you are simmering your orange peel, it is time to get the syrup going so that it will be ready along with everything else is. Add the water, orange juice, cinnamon honey and sugar to a medium size pot and bring to a rapid boil. Allow this to boil for a few minutes to ensure that all of the sugar crystals have dissolved, then reduce the temperature so that the syrup simmers slowly for about 10-15 minutes. You may have to skim off some of the scum that forms as foam on the top of the syrup initially. Use a large tablespoon, skim the surface to remove the foam until the surface of the syrup is clear. After you have simmered this slowly for about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside.
Once you have completed the 4th boil on the orange peel, pour off the water and scoop out the orange peel onto a large plate so the rind can cool completely. Once cool, use a paring knife to carefully cut away the interior pith. I run my knife down one side first, and then the other. I find that doing it in one swoop may accidentally cut away some of the rind. So be careful when you do this.
If they are too big, slice them in half…
Once you have finished removing the pith from all of the rind, place them into your syrup. Turn your heat back on to a low simmer and allow them to it to cook very slowly in the syrup for about one to one and a half hours.
The syrup will be sticky and the orange peel will have become (mostly) translucent. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool completely. Once it has cooled, cover the pot and allow it to remain on your counter top until the next day. The next day, the peel will be sticky and completely translucent.
Remove each piece one by one from the syrup, and use your fingers to gently push off any excess syrup. Place each piece onto a drying (cooling) rack that is sitting inside a sheet pan to catch any drippings. Place the peels side by side so they do not touch. They must dry uncovered overnight until they have developed a tacky surface. On days when the humidity is high or you are experiencing some rain in your area, it may take a few days for this to happen. I don’t like to leave things out on the counter uncovered, so I place my trays(s) in my (turned off) oven, which serves as a safe box and also protects them from any flies or ants.
Before you are ready to roll in sugar or dip in chocolate the next day, make sure they have a slightly tacky surface — they should no longer feel wet. Roll each piece in some granulated sugar and store them (short term) in a sealed container. If I need to store them longer, I store them (without being rolled in sugar) in a covered container in the freezer. I separate each layer with some parchment paper to prevent them from sticking together. When I need them, I just roll them in sugar or dip in chocolate. Storing them in the freezer for extended periods of time will help to keep them fresh.