For two days I have been trying to decide what recipe to honor as the first post here. It ought to be something Indian, obviously. Maybe something using elaichi? Yes, yes of course, I thought. I’ll make one of the more tedious and skill-requiring Indian sweets that’ll blow everyone away…if it turns out. Or perhaps a Parsi dish fragrantly splashed at the end with freshly-pounded cardamom and coriander leaves… Or shall I attempt a new recipe I’ve recently acquired and am eagerly waiting to try? It’s been a rough two days with these thoughts of a perfect primary post added to the list of worries already in my head. And it shouldn’t be. This is a place to unwind and take a few minutes to celebrate my interest and enjoyable toil in the kitchen!
On a moments-ago whim, I finally decided to post what I was currently working on. What a novel idea eh? “Write what I’m familiar with…” is ringing in my head from somewhere. From someone. From where? From who? Ah! I know! Directly from the well-oiled mouth of a certain eccentric english professor I took a class or two from in my later high school years. He really was an oddball! Intelligent, kind, and brimming with wisdom that he earned along with his deeply-etched laugh lines, and spontaneous to the point of unbridaled hilarity in his classes; he loved teaching. He also loved to eat oranges when he was between classes. And to do this properly, he must have thought, one must sit on an office chair in the doorway of one’s classroom and chuck the peels at anyone who happened to be passing by. Oh, the janitors must have loved him dearly…those peels ended up all over the school from kids kicking them along the hallways like stones every time a class ended. I saw old “Doc” at the downtown “farmer’s”/open market a few years ago. He was sitting down, dressed in short pants with suspenders over a white shirt, feather in cap, gaily tooting a pennywhistle as a member of an Irish folk band… I had to close and open my eyes a few times to make sure my vision wasn’t deceiving me. It wasn’t. Not bad for near 90!
Every time I peel an orange I think of him. After that, I set thoughts of him aside and get back to business!
This confection can be made in several, but very similar ways, and there are recipes stretching from the middle east and outward. This particular method I adapted from a Greek recipe I found years ago, which worked better than others I had tried and I retain with few changes. In Greek this is known as “portokali glace”(glazed oranges); it is made with other citrus fruits as well. While often used as an ingredient in other Greek confections, it is also a sweet in its own right. I have found it quite elegant to serve with tea or coffee as an optional light sweetener, or to quietly relish between sips. If you’re clever about it, you can accomplish both! It can also be used to make cookies, cakes, and also to decorate cakes by either cutting the pieces after they are candied, or by using tiny cookie-cutters beforehand. Its list of uses is near endless, and I have my suspicions that it ends up in savory dishes as well…
This recipe also produces, as a by-product, a flavoured syrup when all is said and done. This need not be discarded. I am sure that, with a little imagination, an excellent use could be found! After all, isn’t it nice to know that all of those citrus peels don’t need to be chucked down the hallway?
Candied Citrus Peels
a quantity of citrus peels
light/white corn syrup OR fructose crystals(optional)
1)Prepare the peels: rinse the exterior coloured zest well. With a sharp knife, remove any traces of fruit pulp and membrane from the interior and discard, but leave the white part of the peel fairly intact, more or less. Cut the peel into half-inch (one cm) strips.
2)Remove the bitterness: place prepared peels in a sauce-pan and cover with cold water. Over medium heat, bring to boil. Immediately drain. Repeat this procedure 2 more times for most citrus fruits(3x total); for pomelos, grapefruit and thick-skinned oranges, repeat this 3 more times(4x total). This procedure removes most of the bitter flavour in the peel.
3)Soften the peels: cover the peels once again with cold water and bring to boil, but this time lower the heat and simmer 45 minutes. Drain.
4)Add the required amount of syrup: take the softened peels and replace in the pan. Now, you’ll have to guage yourself how much syrup (sugar and water) you will need, as the final volume has many variables depending on what type of fruit you are using, what variety, and how much peel remains after cleaning. I suggest adding sugar and water of the correct ratio in steps. This ratio is 2:1 sugar to water. So, for every cup of sugar, you will add one-half cup of water. Add enough so that, after the sugar is dissolved, the peels move quite freely. Then, for every cup of sugar that you have added, add 1 T of corn syrup(or 3 t granular fructose). This ingredient is optional, but it gives a better texture to the final product.
5)Glazing the peels: over medium heat, bring the peels, sugar and water to a boil. Adjust syrup if necessary, and boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and, when the bubbling stops, cover the pan and let it stand for 24 hours.
Do this twice more(3x total), bringing it to boil for 10 minutes and then letting it stand for 24 hours.
6)Finishing: after the last resting period is finished, gently heat the mixture once again to liquify the now-thick syrup. Pour the contents through a wire sieve, collecting the syrup that drains and using it elsewhere. Let the peels drain for 6-8 hours, turning now and then with a spoon for the first hour to allow the syrup to run off.
7)Drying and storing: take the now-candied peels(they should be fairly translucent and beautiful in sunlight) and spread them on waxed or parchment paper to dry the surfaces for a day or two, turning once or twice. If you have a fine wire rack, this is all the easier(easier on the eco-system as well). Store in a sealed container at room temperature, or, if you like, these can be dusted with granulated white sugar before storing, as I have done, to keep them from sticking together.