Raise your hand if you usually just throw your orange peels away. Who doesn't? It's not like you could eat them. Or is it? When I prepared Sicilian orange and fennel salad I used some nice Spanish untreated oranges. Throwing away the peels seemed a waste. I could have dried them but I still have a big jar of this stuff which I seldom use. And then, as in every classic cartoon, the little light bulb turned on. Candied orange peel! That's what I would do.
Only, I didn't feel like using some of the lengthy procedures I had read about in a few Italian books. Some take days and I didn't want to start such a long "project". After some browsing through my cookbooks I decided to go for relatively quick method described in Larousse Gastronomique. Candying fruit quickly has its downsides. You have to use quite a bit of heat and the fruit will inevitably a cooked taste: not that bad for citrus peel, but something I would avoid for other fruits. A slow process can give absolutely fantastic results. My favourite candied fruits, produced in Genova, Italy, by Romanengo and tasting incredibly like fresh ripe fruit, are produced, according to some, with a process that doesn't involve any heating of the fruit. But you know, sometimes I'm just lazy so I went for the quick way :-).
The candying process itself is quite easy:
- The peel of the orange is scrubbed till no white pith remains. This has the function of removing the bitter flavour. In other recipes the peels are blanched twice for the same reason. I scrubbed quite a bit but I still had a wee bit of pith sticking to my peels. In the end it gave only a faint bitter not, not unpleasant in contrast to the sweetness of the finished peels. Once scrubbed I cut the peels into strips.
- For each orange I used 250 ml water (8.5 fl oz) and 125 g (4.4 oz) sugar. Once this sirup boiled I added the peels and let the whole simmer uncovered till the liquid was reduced by 3/4 (about 4-5 hours). I then turned off the heat and let cool.
- Once cool one could pass to the next step straight away. I didn't have any time (it was quite late) so I just left everything in the closed pot till the next evening. With such a high sugar concentration (plus the hours of simmering) there's practically no risk of any bugs growing in there. Now comes the sticky part: drain the peels through a colander till most of the sirup is eliminated. Have fun washing off the sticky stuff from your pot/sink/etc :-). Once finished, toss the peels with confectioners sugar till nicely coated. The recipe at this point tells you to dry the peels under the broiler/grill. I found this a bit too hot and got also a bit scared that I would end up with burned peels so I opted for about 1 hour at 120C/250F. Once cool (and dry) I stored my peels in a glass jar. They keep for a very long time.
And once you have candied orange peels what better than chocolate covered ones? To do this I tempered some dark chocolate as described here and used it to coat some of the peels (plus a few grapes that were just standing there). The last peels I coated didn't look as nice as the first ones as I worked too slow and so the chocolate got a bit too cold and instead of a nice smooth chocolate surface I got a few cocoa butter crystals showing up. Doesn't make them any less tasty though!