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Friday, January 6, 2012

Candied Orange Peel

If you received fruit baskets over the holidays and still have some fruit left, this is a great way to use up the citrus.

Orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel can be candied to make a deliciously fresh, zesty treat. This recipe specifies four oranges, but you can substitute two grapefruit or eight small lemons or limes. It is a time consuming project, so make sure that you have an afternoon or so to complete these tasty treats. Or... you could prepare the peels and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Place them in a zip-loc bag, and finish the process the next day. For me, peeling and removing the pith of the oranges was the most time consuming part.

4 oranges
4.25 cups water
2.5 cups sugar, plus more for coating

Use a knife or a citrus peeler to score the peels of four oranges into quarters. Peel the oranges carefully, trying to keep the peels intact as much as possible. Set the peeled oranges aside and reserve for another use, like Ambrosia (recipe follows).

Using a very sharp knife, cut away the bitter white pith from the underside of the peels. The remaining peel should be approximately 1/8” thick. Do not worry if small amounts of white pith remain, but try to remove as much as possible. This will produce a much tastier treat. Slice the peels into long strips approximately ½” thick. Some of the strips may tare as you are trimming the pith away... don't worry any size strips will do!

Combine 4.25 cups of water and 2.5 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and heat, uncovered, until the sugar boils for 5 minutes.

Add the strips of peel and turn the heat down to low (this will depend on your stove... I set mine at 3 which is a medium low setting), until the mixture is at a good simmer. Cook, uncovered and simmering, until the syrup reduces to a quarter of its original volume (the syrup will barely cover the tops of the peels). Try not to stir during this process, or the mixture will crystallize and turn to sugar. The reduction will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. (depending on the simmering process)

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool. Once cool, drain the peels in a colander. Wipe the peels with your fingers or pull between the tines of a fork to remove any excess syrup. At this point, turn your oven to 200 degrees.

Place about one cup of sugar in a small bowl. Dredge the peels in the sugar until they are coated, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Add more sugar if necessary.

Place the sugar-coated peels in the warm oven and allow them to dry out. This should take approximately one hour, but check them every 20 minutes to ensure that they are not burning or cooking in any way. The peels should look dry, not shiny. If they are shiny, dredge them in a little more sugar and continue to dry them. Alternately, they can be left to sit overnight on a drying rack instead of placed in the oven.

Once peels are completely dry store them in a zip-loc bag or air tight container. They should keep for weeks. Candied peels can be enjoyed plain, dipped in melted chocolate or used in cake, cookie, candy, or bread recipes.

Southern Ambrosia

"Often nestled among a host of traditional Christmas dishes on the Southern sideboard is a big crystal bowl of ambrosia. This "food of the gods" in its purest form is simplicity itself--fresh oranges layered with flakes of coconut.

'People who add grapefruit, pineapple, grapes, and bananas, and Lord knows what else to ambrosia simply don't understand ambrosia,' proclaims Martha Pearl Villas in My Mother's Southern Desserts written by her son, James. Her recipe has just four ingredients: oranges, coconut, sugar, and orange juice." ~ Southern Living Magazine

Reserve all the juice and segments of the oranges you used for the candied peels. Toss them in a bowl with a handful of marshmallows, a sprinkle of coconut and dot with a few cherries. If the salad is to dry for your taste, add a little orange juice to the mixture and toss.

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