Thursday, December 12, 2013

yuletide flavours: candied orange peel

M husband has a Satsuma addiction. Every December, I break out a tray or a bowl for our coffee table, and each week he fills it with stem-and-leaf satsumas (so pretty and cheery!) or even the piled contents of a 5-pound box. In addition to being cheery and delicious, they provide a key ingredient for my holiday baking: their peels.
I save the peels for a few days (I gradually fill a Ziploc bag that I keep in the crisper drawer in the fridge) then candy a big bunch of them at once. Candying orange peel isn't difficult; it's one of those tasks that takes more time and patience than skill. The first step is to simmer the peels in water (just enough that they have room to move around) for 2 hours, until the white pith becomes waterlogged. Then drain the peels and scrape away the pith using a spoon (I sometimes have a knife on hand, too, in case there are stubborn bits). Then cut the peels into strips (or tear into bits, whatever you prefer) and begin the candying process.
Combine equal parts water and sugar to make a simple syrup. Make sure you have enough simple syrup so that you can submerge all of your peels in it. Add the peels and simmer over medium-low heat (stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking or burning) for about 40 minutes. Strain the peels out of the syrup (you can save the orange-infused syrup for making cocktails!) and place on a rack to dry.
My peels normally remain a bit sticky if I don't roll them in sugar, so today I am trying a little alteration to my usual process. First, I simmered the peels for about an hour in the syrup, instead of 40 minutes - I kept an eye on the pan and waited until the syrup was starting to get really reduced before I drained the peels. I laid them out a cooling rack that I'd placed over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, as you see below:

 - that's a lot of peel!

Finally, I put the whole pan in a low oven (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for another two hours. I've just turned the oven off and left the door open, to continue to dry them in the warmth. I'll report back if this results in a candied peel that is easier to work with for baking.

Now, I've just got to dig out all the lebkuchen and pfeffernusse recipes I've been saving. I don't think pfeffernusse needs orange peel, but lebkuchen does! I haven't had a lebkuchen in so long; it was my favorite as a child. In fact, one year, I named two stuffed bears I received for Christmas "Bel" and "Kuchen." =)

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