It’s citrus season in California and I can find all varieties of oranges and lemons at my farmers markets. Eating one or two oranges everyday is my way to get my vitamin C, at breakfast or as a mid-morning healthy snack after a brutal bike ride or a sweaty work out. Oranges are inexpensive and plentiful, so delicious all year round, even better when in season.
Candied orange peel is exceptionally good and an overlooked old-school, classic natural candy, and super easy to make at home. The next time you peel an orange, try this simple recipe and use the orange peel as a go-to-garnish for chocolate desserts, with homemade cookies or as an accompaniment to your afternoon tea. I call my candied orange peels “nature’s candy”.
Equipment-wise, all I need for this preparation is a good sharp serrated utility knife, a saucepan, a strainer, a drying rack and a cookie sheet or rimmed ¼ sheet pan. Wax paper too for storing the peels in an airtight container.
2 California organic naval oranges
2 cups sugar
1. Peel the oranges: Slicing off the tops and bottoms, and set them flat side down on a small cutting board. Take down the sides in nice thick slices, including the white pith. (Save the orange flesh and segments for a snack or for later use).
One at a time, using a serrated utility knife, lay each orange peel slice skin side down on the cutting board and trim away the white pith, which can be bitter and unappetizing. Discard the white pith into your compost bin.
2. Blanch the orange three times. Start the peels in ample cold water, bring to a boil for 30 seconds, drain and start them again in cold water. Do this three times.
3. Now it’s time to candy them. To ½ cup of water add 1 cup of sugar. Over medium-high heat, make a simple syrup: bring to a boil, whisking till the sugar is dissolved. (I use a small silicone brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the pan to make sure all the sugar gets dissolved).
Add the blanched orange peels all at once and simmer 7-10 minutes (or up to 20 minutes, depending on your stove) over low-medium heat till they begin to soften and absorb the sugar syrup and become candied. At this point, off the heat, I can keep them in the pan in their syrup for a few hours, or even overnight – they’re not going anywhere.
4. Drying: On a drying rack set over a cookie sheet or rimmed ¼ sheet pan lay the candied orange peel in rows, without touching (they will be sticky!) and let them drain and dry for a good hour. (I sometimes pat them dry with a paper towel to accelerate the process).
In a big metal bowl, add 1 cup sugar, then the semi-dry candied orange peel slices. Toss well to coat the orange peels with the plenty of sugar.
Put them back on the rack in neat rows – without overlapping or touching – and let them dry up to an hour or more, undisturbed.
5. Store the candied orange peels in an airtight container. They will keep for up to a week (or more) but are best used within the first few days. then you can start another batch, and always have “nature’s candy” at the ready for your guests.