I adore candied citrus peels, both for eating and as holiday presents. A few years ago, I made candied orange, lemon, and grapefruit peels. Fabulous, they are a far cry (in a good way) from the stuff you can buy commercially. Little did I know that those sweet morsels were just my gateway to candied peel heaven. My newest citrus peel addiction is Jen Farley’s Spiced Candied Orange Peel.
This Spiced Candied Orange Peel really takes the concept up a notch. “Regular” candied peels cook in a simple syrup of sugar and water. Jen’s recipe infuses the syrup with a combination of vanilla, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
The slices soak up the spices, and bits of vanilla bean cling to them. Beautiful to look at, these peels have an exquisite aroma and flavor too.
This recipe comes from Jen’s new book, The Gourmet Kitchen. Full disclosure – I’m a friend of Jen’s and a longtime fan of her blog, Savory Simple. I tested several recipes from the book, and her publisher sent me a copy without charge.
This past week, I was part of a group of Jen’s friends who had a book party for her. Between the co-hosts and Jen (who made several dishes), we cooked and baked ten of the recipes from the book for our guests. Every recipe was a hit. The flavors were bold, delicious, and in several cases unusual.
Although I don’t typically like foods containing chai, I was completely smitten by the Chai-Spiced Snowdrop Cookies. The Marinated Portobello Sandwiches were simple, but amazing. I didn’t get a chance to sample the Kale, Chickpea, and Sweet Potato Curry during the party. However, I eagerly downed the last bits before cleaning the serving bowl. That taste convinced me to make the curry soon, hopefully this week. Perhaps the simplest recipe we made was the one for Blood Orange Gin and Tonic. Even though we made a huge batch and there were plenty of other drinks, the pitcher of the gin and tonic was gone halfway through the party.
Gourmet doesn’t mean difficult when it comes to The Gourmet Kitchen recipes. Most fit on a single page, with clear directions and a beautiful photograph on the opposing page. It is the flavor combinations and simple touches that make these dishes special. In a word, the book is a winner.
Back to the Spicy Candied Orange Peel. (Jen calls them Spiced Candied Orange Peel.)
I’ll give you Jen’s recipe, but here are my tips, first.
Tips for Making Spiced Candied Orange Peel
- Use Oranges with Thick Peels. For my first batch, I chose organic oranges. Their peels were too thin and the slices broke apart as they cooked in the syrup. Although they tasted fine, the lacked the small pieces lacked sophisticated look of the larger slices. Navel oranges with thick skins work the best in this recipe.
- Don’t Substitute on the Spices. Splurge on the Vanilla Bean. You can find the spices less expensively in ethnic food stores or in a store that sells bulk spices. I buy vanilla beans online. Don’t substitute vanilla extract – those tiny black dots you can see on my photos of the peels are tiny vanilla seeds from the inside of the bean. By the way, you can smash the cardamom pods with any mallet, but if you have a mortar and pestle, that’s the best way to crush them without losing any of the seeds inside.
- Stir the Peels Gently While They Cook in the Syrup. Stir just enough to move the peels around. No need to do it for a long time or vigorously.
- Save the Syrup and the Orange Sections. In my next post, I’ll show you how to make a simple fruit dessert with just four ingredients, including the syrup and the oranges. And keep any extra sugar you have left after rolling the peel after cooking – it’s lightly scented and perfect for sweetening tea or hot apple cider.
Spiced Candied Orange Peel
Orange peels cooked in an aromatic syrup of sugar, water, and spices. These peels make an ideal gift for the holidays and a wonderful sweet to serve guests anytime.
- 4 navel oranges, medium - large
- 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 2 cups water
- 1 vanilla bean, split down the middle
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 6 cardamom pods, smashed
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole cloves
Cut the oranges into quarters. Using a spoon, scoop out the fruit and set it aside. (After you pull off the fruit off of the tip of the peel using a spoon, you may be able to gently peel the rest of the fruit off of the peel with your fingers.) Leave as much of the white pith on the peel as possible.
Jen suggests slicing the peel quarters at this point into slices 1/4-inch thick or smaller. (Note: In one batch, I made the slices after the next step and a bit thicker, more like 1/3-inch thick and that worked better for me.)
Place the orange peels in a large saucepan (or pot) and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and repeat the process two more times, using fresh water each time. Do not skip this step or any part of it, as simmering the peels three times removes the bitterness from the peel.)
Clean the saucepan/pot thoroughly to remove any residual bitterness. Add the water, 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, the vanilla bean, peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and add the peel slices. Simmer on low heat, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the slices become translucent, 1 1/2-2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and top with a cooling rack. Using tongs, remove the orange peels from the syrup, shake off any excess liquid, and transfer to the rack to finish draining. Let the candied orange peels dry overnight.
Toss with the remaining 1 cup sugar before serving.