21 November 2010

Candied orange peel

I don't remember the first time I ever tried a candied orange peel, but I think it's safe to say that I didn't like it, because for quite a long time I harboured quite a distaste for it. To me, candied orange peels were synonymous with bitter, leathery ick.

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My husband, however, always loved the stuff. (And imagine, we got married anyway. I guess some differences are reconcilable). He grew up with the good stuff from Italian pasticcerie and hadn't been scarred like I had been, I guess. Of course it was only a matter of time before I found myself in my kitchen labouring over a potful of orange peels, hoping that they would not disappoint.

This was probably eight years or so ago, shortly after we had gotten married, when I had but a handful of cookbooks. Naturally I consulted the only cookbook I really trusted at the time: The Joy of Cooking. I followed the recipe for Candied Citrus Peel to the letter and the candied peels turned out beautifully, to both my delight and my husband's. But man: though I have never been a potty mouth, I very vividly recall thinking that the blasted recipe was going to change my no-swearing ways.

Now don't get me wrong: I've learned an incredible lot from the Joy of Cooking and actually have two editions on my bookshelf which I use on a regular basis. But making that candied citrus peel was, um, not a pleasant experience. I halved half a dozen oranges and scraped out the pulp, simmered the orange peel 'bowls' twice, scraped out the remaining pulp, sliced the suckers, and simmered them again, this time in syrup. And that wasn't even the hard part. After an overnight soak in its syrupy bath, the peels needed yet another simmering, and then they had to be rolled in sugar and allowed to dry. It sounds easy, but somehow the peels ended up clumping together, and I spent a good chunk of my morning peeling individual strips off and laying each one on a sheet to dry. Six oranges, sliced into quarter-inch thin strips. High maintenance? Tedious? Infuriating? I swore I would never make them again.

Until the other day.

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Fine Cooking featured candied citrus peel in its current issue and as I read through the recipe I was struck by how simple it seemed compared to how I had made it years ago. The peels are sliced into strips right at the beginning, and no overnight rest is required (although three 5-minute blanchings are called for, to draw out the bitterness). And when that's done, the peels just need to be tossed in a bowl of sugar. It sounded easy enough.

So after work last Thursday, while catching up on some DVR-ed TV shows, I tried making candied citrus peels again. I used the Joy of Cooking recipe but Fine Cooking's technique, and was blown away by how painless it was. Homemade citrus peel is miles better than pre-made - even the kind from good French and Italian shops - and now that I've discovered that it's actually possible to make them after work on a weeknight while watching television without uttering a single cuss word, I will definitely be making candied peels again. 

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Candied Orange (Citrus) Peel
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, the Fine Cooking way

Using a sharp paring knife, cut lengthwise into eighths:
  4 or 5 oranges (or 2 large grapefruit, or 8 lemons)

Separate the pulp from the peel. There should be a layer of white pith left attached to the zest. All you'll be needing for this recipe is the peel, so go ahead use the inside of the fruit however you wish - we just had ours for dessert.

Slice the peels into ¼" strips and place them in a heavy duty saucepan with a capacity of at least 3 quarts. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain the peels, cover them again with fresh water, bring to a boil, and blanch for 5 minutes. Repeat, for a total of 3 blanchings.

After the third blanching, leave the peels in your strainer or colander. Using the same saucepan, combine over medium-high heat:
  1 cup sugar 
  3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  ¾ cup water

When the sugar has dissolved, add the peels and reduce the heat to low. Simmer very gently (there should only be a few bubbles). Stir occasionally. There may not be enough syrup to cover all the peels, but don't worry - just stir the peels every few minutes.

This simmering in syrup should take no longer than an hour. Taste a bit of peel after about 30 minutes. If it is still a bit tough, allow it to continue cooking a bit more. The peels will be translucent and tender when they are ready.

Drain the peels. There will be a bit of leftover syrup, which you can save for another use (brush over cake? orange hot chocolate? hmmm).

In a bowl, place:
  1 cup granulated sugar

Transfer the peels to the bowl with granulated sugar, and toss to coat the peels. You can shake them in a sieve to remove the excess. We like the extra crunch so I just leave them as they are.

Spread the coated peels in a single layer on a rack. Let dry for 5 or 6 hours. The longer you leave them out, the chewier they get. Once fully dry, store the candied peels in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month (or in the refrigerator for up to 4 months).

9 comments:

  1. Somehow, Cookie, I can't imagine you saying a bad word ;-)

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  2. Hee hee, Tita Nancy. Only for very "special" occasions :o)

    Ate, will you be trying it one of these days? :o)

    Grace, it's really easier than it looks! Well, the first time around was a totally different story, but this new way makes the process a lot more pleasant!

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  3. Wow,that is easy. Ok, I need to give this recipe a shot :)!

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  4. So, I just made these and they already seem amazing! I can't wait to see how they are after some drying time.

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  5. thanks for sharing.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. soo good ! I have made them a few times . Thank You so much for this wonderful simple recipe

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