Thursday, November 29, 2012

Candied Orange Peels

Candied orange peels. For the longest time, for me, those words conjured up images of sparkly, dry, over-the-top sweet "grandma" candy used for decorations and never eaten. If a recipe called for some, I'd leave them out. If asked if I liked them, I'd say no, even though I'd never tried them. What's worse- when left with a few orange peels after juicing or what have you, I'd just toss them.

The horror.

Then one day, I turned over a new leaf. I awakened to how much I waste in my kitchen, and I vowed to change.

Dry bread/crusts? Make bread crumbs.
Veggie scraps? Meat bones? Make stock.
Citrus peels? Make candy.
Oh, and by the way, you can dip them in chocolate.

So I set out to find the perfect method or recipe for making this ancient treat. Guess what? There's a million. Seriously. I checked out what the mainstream sites had to say (like Food Network), I found some articles and a blog or two, and I even cracked out my Good Housekeeping Cook Book. You know what? Not a single recipe or method agreed with another. Ha.

Can you guess what I did? Oh yes- I improvised. I combined a little of this, a little of that, the cooking time of one, the drying time of another, and I must say... they turned out pretty gooooooood.

Here's what I did:

First, I washed, halved, and juiced 7 small oranges. Then I peeled the pulp away from the skins.
I then cut thin strips from the skins, flattening them out as I moved across the peel.
The strips were dropped into a non-reactive pot half-full of water... Audrey helped.
They were then boiled for 15 minutes, the water was changed, they were boiled again for 15 minutes, the water was changed, and they were boiled once more for 15 minutes. This is supposed to mellow the bitter of the remaining pith attached to the peels.

After boiling the peels three times, I drained them and left them sitting in the colander in the sink while I made a simple syrup in the same non-reactive pot (important, since the peels will retain some of their acidity through this process). There is seriously no standard measurement for the syrup recipe or the sugar-water-orange ratio, so I used 2 cups water and 1 cup plain white sugar per 3 oranges. I had 7 oranges, so I used 5 cups of water and 2 1/2 cups of sugar.

It's hard to wait for something so tantalizingly fragrant and sweet that requires so many steps, no? But all good things to those who wait... moving on...

So after the simple syrup was ready to go (meaning the sugar is dissolved in the water and it's hot), I added the boiled peels. Here's a montage of the peels candy-ing- it took mine about an hour and a half.

The goal is translucent, soft peels that still hold together, but are easily squished with pressure from your spoon. See how you can kinda see the edge of the spoon through that peel in the last photo? I think that's just about right.

After reaching a translucentey stage, I spooned the peels out of the syrup- now very thick- and laid them in a single layer on some wax paper to dry...

...where they remained until almost completely dry, to be dipped in dark chocolate. However, the more classic way of finishing them would be to roll them in sugar until sparkly and no longer sticky, and to do that you'd only leave them sitting until cool but not completely dry (you want some tack so the sugar will stick).

For mine to realize their chocolatey fate, they had to dry for about 24 hours, and even then they were still a bit sticky, so I tossed them in a little powdered sugar before dipping (probably not necessary, but I'm winging it here).

I read that these babies will keep for anywhere from 3 weeks to several months, and that you can easily freeze them (though the chocolate-covered versions run the risk of blooming). I'm not sure mine will last that long, but good to know...

So there you have it! Candied Orange Peels (dipped in chocolate). A perfect kickoff to holiday making.

Wait! You didn't dump the syrup after fishing out all those lovely peels, did you? That stuff is liquid gold, baby! Thin it down a little with some water, strain it, and voila! Orange simple syrup for all your holiday cocktails! Not a drinker? Add it to some ginger ale on ice, or brush it between the layers of your next cake... seriously, no more waste, remember?

Bon appetite. 


  1. These look delicious!! And I love the photo of the kids laying on the floor. Don't you wish you could just plop down once in a while?? : )

    ~ Wendy