Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Jeweled gingerbread fruitcake

Candy your own fruit and use your own preserves in this traditional holiday treat

Candied orange peel

Makes about 11 1/4 ounces

Every time I purchase candied orange peel I wonder why I didn’t make it myself. The store-bought variety is usually expensive and it never tastes really fresh. This recipe will save you the same remorse. It requires a bit of time at the stove, and the peel takes a while to dry, but your efforts will be rewarded in the end. Homemade candied orange peel is full of flavor and keeps well for weeks. The same process works with lemon peel, too. You’ll never buy the supermarket stuff again.

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup

Using a sharp chef’s knife or paring knife, trim the ends of the oranges. Sit each orange upright on a flat work surface. Using the paring knife and following the contour of the orange, cut the peel away in strips from the fruit. The strips don’t have to be of any particular width, and it’s okay if they have some pith (white part) on them, too.

Put the orange strips in a medium saucepan, pour in cold water just to cover them, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water begins to boil, drain the peel immediately. Repeat the process 2 more times. (This technique softens the peel and reduces its bitterness.)

Using the same pan, combine 2 cups of the sugar, the water, and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugars.

Meanwhile, trim the blanched peel of any white pith and slice the pieces lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully drop the peel into the simmering sugar syrup. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a very slow simmer until the peel is tender and translucent, about 1 hour.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool completely. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Carefully drain the orange peel, reserving the syrup, if desired. (The syrup has a lovely orange aroma and flavor. Use it for sweetening beverages, or use it to candy another batch of orange peel.) Arrange the strips on a wire rack (the pieces should not touch) and set aside in a cool area to dry for at least 8 hours or overnight. The peel will still be slightly sticky to the touch when it’s ready.

Put the remaining 1 cup of the sugar in a shallow pan or bowl. Toss a small handful at a time of the dried peel in the sugar, generously coating them. Arrange the peel again on a wire rack and set aside in a cool area to dry for at least 8 hours or overnight. The candied peel will be firm and crystallized when it’s ready. (Use the peel immediately, or store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry area for up to 2 months.)

Candied lemon peel
To prepare candied lemon peel, use 6 lemons and proceed with the recipe in the same manner.

Excerpted from Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream, and Candy (Chronicle Books)

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