I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for Spiced Candied Orange Peel with you since November. November. That was…two months ago! Can you believe it? The days are flying by. So, you might think this is a holiday recipe, and it is, my friends, but it is also a good anytime recipe. Citrus is plentiful and delicious in the winter and it’s a good way to take advantage. Truth be told, I still have some of the candied orange peel in my cupboard. We’ve been hoarding it, which I think was a good idea because now that the onslaught of sugar is over, the tasty little strips of candied peel can be enjoyed properly.
Homemade candied orange peel is infinitely better than anything you’ll find in a grocery store. I like making them at home because it is a slow process that doesn’t require much than the occasional stir, and smells amazing. I love the way the peels plump up and preparation to absorb the sweet syrup.
As I was getting ready to make my first batch of candied orange peels for the season, I decided that I needed to try a little experiment – adding spices and Drambuie to the candying syrup. It worked perfectly. If you aren’t familiar with Drambuie, it’s a wonderfully fragrant Scottish liqueur made from malt whiskey, heather hone, herbs, and spices. We use it every so often in desserts because of the great flavor it imparts, which goes so, so well with the candied orange peel.
I used all of my favorite spices – star anise, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean, and fresh nutmeg. The key to really good candied orange peel is a long, slow, slow, slow cooking time. This is particularly true when infusing them with the spices. You want to make sure they really absorb those good flavors.
You want to use good, thick-skinned fruit. It’s okay if some of the pith remains when you cut the peel away. It boils several times and as the peels swell, it becomes easier to cut the white part away, just leaving the orange part. As the swelled peels cook in the syrup, the sugar will replace the water and magically transform them to candy. I’ve successfully candied all kinds of citrus peels – even tangerines and mandarin oranges.
It’s important the peels dry after being rolled in the sugar. I roll them once, let them dry and roll them again. Then I store them in sugar. I really like using an unbleached, more natural sugar like Zulka. It also has more flavor than white granulated sugar. The slightly larger grains are also nice for this purpose.
- 4 thick-skinned oranges, such as naval oranges
- 1⅓ cups pure cane sugar (I use Zulka)
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup brown rice syrup (can substitute corn or golden syrup)
- ¼ cup Drambuie (optional, but you’re going to want to add it)
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 3-4 whole cloves
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch sea salt
- 1 cup pure cane sugar, for rolling
- Cut off the bottom and top of each orange so it sits flat on a cutting board. Starting at the top and cutting as little of the fruit as possible, remove the peel from the orange.
- Place the peels in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Drain water from the peels, cover again with fresh, cold water and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat and let the peels simmer until very tender, but not falling apart, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. Clean the pot to remove any residue on the sides. Set aside. Using a spoon or a thin paring knife, remove as much of the pith as possible. The peel will have swelled a lot from the water and the pith will come away easily. Discard the pith.
- Place the 1⅓ cup sugar, water, Drambuie (if using), and corn syrup into the clean pot. Bring it to a simmer, washing down the sides, if needed, with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the peels and spices to the pot. Lower the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the peels have absorbed most of the syrup. Remove from heat and let peels cool in the syrup for 8 hours or overnight.
- Fill a shallow bowl with the 1 cup of pure cane sugar. Gently reheat the syrup to loosen the peels if it has hardened. Remove as much of the syrup from the peels as possible and place them into the bowl of sugar. Roll them around and press the sugar into them. Transfer them to a plate or rack to let them dry.You might need to do this step twice depending on how much syrup is left on the surface of the peels.
- To store, place the peels into an airtight jar or container.
Recipe source: adapted from The Joy of Cooking