Did you know that oranges and other citrus fruits are in peak season during the months of December and January? I did, thanks to the huge bag of oranges and grapefruit in my kitchen that I’m starting to get sick of eating every day! To avoid citrus burn-out and switch things up a bit, I started brainstorming what I could do with all of these oranges and that’s when I realized duh-I should make candy out of them! Because there’s nothing like taking nutritional produce and turning into a dessert, right? Not only are these candied orange peels deliciously unique, it’s also a great way to make sure nothing goes to waste while still taking advantage of the season. Of course, you could use this technique for any citrus, including grapefruit, lemons, and limes. You could give these away by themselves as a gift, or chop them up later and use them in biscotti, scones, or biscuits. Here’s the basic technique:
Candied Orange Peels
-3 medium to large sized oranges
-2 cups water
-3 cups granulated sugar, plus an extra cup for coating
*optional: good quality chocolate to dip the peels into later
Step 1: Score the orange peels into quarters using a paring knife, being careful to only cut through the skin and not through the flesh. You could also use a vegetable peeler to peel off very thin strips of peel, but I didn’t simply because I wanted a more standardized appearance.
Step 2: Peel the skin and the pith (the white part) away from the fruit, and cut into thin strips. If your oranges have a thick skin with lots of pith, you can scrape some of the extra out to reduce the chances of getting peels that are too bitter. No need to do this step if your peels are thinner or more delicate.
Step 3: Place the strips in a large saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring the water to a boil on medium heat and let boil for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Drain and repeat this process again with fresh, cool water at least 2 more times. This repeated blanching is tedious, but it really helps in drawing out the bitterness of the peels.
Step 5: Dissolve 3 cups of sugar into 2 cups water (or go for a 2:1 ratio if you want sweeter peels) and bring to a constant simmer. Simmer the mixture for 8-9 minutes, or til the temperature reaches about 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 6: Add the peels to the simmering sugar water, and reduce heat to medium low. Keep the peels simmering for 45 minutes to an hour, making sure to adjust the heat as needed. Resist the urge to stir the peels at this point, as doing so can cause the sugar to crystallize. If you need to, swirl the simple syrup around in the saucepan to make sure everything is evenly covered.
Step 7: When the peels become translucent, remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool completely.
Step 8: Place peels on a wire drying rack to drip dry for about an hour. If you try and coat your peels in sugar too soon, the sugar will be too thick and clumpy.
Step 9: Toss the now sticky peels in granulated sugar, and let dry again for 24 hours.
That’s it! Now technically at this point your candied orange peels are done, but for an extra oomph you can opt to dip them into some melted chocolate like I did, then let the chocolate harden on parchment paper. In any case, store the candied orange peels in an air tight container at room temperature, and enjoy!
Also by Sarah: Surviving the Holidays with Family
More winter vegan dessert recipes: 5 Ingredient Chocolate Toffee
Photo: Sarah McEwing