In search of an impressive homemade contribution for a holiday party or a gift for friends and family? Candied citrus peel is among the simplest and least expensive alternatives. Like candied ginger, all it requires (besides the item to be candied) is a bit of patience, a heavy pot, a cooling rack or a large pan or just wax paper, a few utensils, sugar, water, and a tiny bit of cream of tartar or corn syrup.
Today’s post is about making candied orange peel; the next post will be on candied grapefruit and lemon peels.
There are two ways to make candied citrus peel – keeping the pith (the white insides of the fruit) on or taking it off. If you leave the pith on, the peel is thicker and will stand up as in the picture below. With pith off, as in the lemon rind for limoncello, the peel is thin and stays rather pliable. The pith is bitter unless you boil it several times, so “pith on” candied citrus peel takes a bit longer to make than the thinner type.
I tried both ways for orange peels; I like the thinner type for baking and prefer the thicker peels for candy.
The basic technique for making candied citrus peel is to cut the peel off the fruit, boil it at least twice, drain and cook it in a sugar and water “simple” syrup, then drain and dry the peel before rolling it in sugar. Although you’ll find variations in the number of times to boil the peel, the amount of time for boiling, the proportions for the simple syrup, and the required drying time for the peels after cooking, the fundamentals stay the same.
For these candied orange peels, I used the simple syrup proportions from a Lisa Yockelson recipe I had clipped out of a paper ages ago with my own timing on the boiling and drying.
Orange and chocolate is a divine combination. You can simply melt bar chocolate and dip the partially dried orange peels, as I did. However, without tempering the chocolate (a rather exacting process involving heating chocolate to a precise temperature, lowering the temperature and then raising it slightly), the peels don’t keep their shine after drying. They still taste great though, and taste the same as if the chocolate had been tempered.
Candied Orange Peels
- 4 navel oranges, with skin as thick as possible
- 2 – 2½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (to keep the simple syrup from crystallizing)
- Cutting board
- Large, heavy pot with lid
- Colander or strainer
- Large spoon
- Tongs or a large fork
- 2 large cookie sheets or cooling racks or wax paper
- Bowl or plastic container (lid optional – see directions about sugar coating the peels)
- Cut the navel oranges in quarters lengthwise.
- Peel the skin off. If part of the white pith comes off that is fine, but otherwise, there is no need to pull the pith off the peel. (Save the oranges for eating or putting in a fruit smoothie, or another use.)
- Put the quarters of peel (with pith, although my picture shows some without because I was trying the recipe both ways) into a pot of cold water and bring the water to a boil. Let the water boil for 2-3 minutes, then drain it and run cold water over the quarters of peel.
- Repeat the boiling process two more times. The final (third) time, let the water boil for 5-8 minutes. During the first boiling, the orange peel quarters will float, but as they become more water-logged they will sink.
- After the third boiling, drain the water, run cold water over the quarters of peel and leave them aside to cool as you prepare the simple syrup.
- Put 1½ cups of the sugar, the cream of tartar, and ¾ cup of water in the pot, cover it and slowly melt the sugar under a low light, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely melted and the liquid becomes entirely transparent. If the liquid is still translucent, then the sugar is not yet completely dissolved.
- Cut the now-cooled orange peel quarters into thin strips, preferably between ⅛ – ¼ inch wide.
- Put the strips of orange peel into the simple syrup, bring it to a boil and keep boiling it for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone and the peels are shiny.
- Remove the peels from the pot with a set of tongs or a large fork and place them on cookie sheets, cooling racks or wax paper. If there is more than a smidgen of simple syrup left, save it for other uses. Simple syrup is great for sweetening room temperature or cold drinks or desserts when you don’t want to use honey and you also do not want undissolved sugar crystals. If there isn’t enough to save or you don’t want it, make sure to dispose of the syrup in the trash or dissolve it in a considerable amount of hot water, rather than pouring it down the drain undiluted.
- The peels will be quite sticky. Separate them with a fork or your hands, so that they are not touching each other much, if at all. Let them dry out for at least 5-6 hours (I left mine overnight) if you want the dusting of sugar to be light, less time for drying if you prefer a heavier coating. The peels must feel at least slightly tacky when you roll them in the sugar; otherwise the sugar won’t stick to them. If you want to dip entire slices of peel in chocolate, do it without the next (sugar coating) step. If you prefer to dip them half in sugar and half in chocolate, it’s easiest to dip them in sugar first, let the sugar coating dry and then dip the slice halfway in melted bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate.
- Roll the partially dried slices of orange peel in ½ -1 cup of sugar. I found it easiest to use a plastic bowl with a lid, placing a few pieces in the bowl, then covering and shaking it.
- Lay the orange slices of peel out again to dry completely, which should only take about 2 hours.
The orange peels can be stored for a week or longer in a tightly covered container.