Candied orange peel is one of my favorite treats, yet for some reason I’ve only made it once since I was a little girl. When I saw beautiful, seasonal Royal Mandarins at my local grocery store, I knew I had to candy their gorgeous peels. This is such a simple recipe, and also creates orange simple syrup and orange sugar, three recipes in one!My mother is a very smart woman. From a very young age she taught me that cooking and food were a lot of fun. I realize that sometimes this caused her more work than it was worth. For instance, at age two I put a plastic Cool Whip (yes, we did eat Cool Whip growing up) container in the broiler before we went off to a church event. Imagine how traumatized I was when we came home to a house full of black, oily smoke and a screeching fire alarm. I was certain that an ancient dragon had turned our little home into his fiery den and was bellowing a warning to stay away. I think it took a few weeks, but my excitement for cooking was renewed, this time with an element of caution.
The examples of my mother’s brilliance were the cooking parties I got to invite all the neighborhood kids to. One party that stands out in particular was the garnish making party. I was in the third grade and we lived in North Carolina. My father was Battalion Commander in the Army, which meant my mother hosted a lot of dinners.
One day, we were at a store and I noticed a garnish book. “Look mom! It’s food art!” She explained garnishes to me and we decided this would be a fun experiment. She bought the book and began planning for the next dinner party.
The morning of the party, I had four friends come over bright and early. We excitedly pored over the pages of the garnish book, deciding which ones would take longest, which ones might wilt, and which ones were easy enough to start with.
After coming up with a plan, we began making radish mice, apple rosebuds and olive penguins. The day was filled with giggling, snacking and the joy of learning. It was an honor to be trusted by an adult to prepare food for such an important party. While we worked on garnishes, my mother made the food for dinner.
My friends were allowed to stay long enough to hear the ooohs and aaahs of the officers’ wives who came for dinner. The ladies were amazed my mother was able to do so much, and even more impressed when she called us out of our hiding place in the kitchen. We glowed in their praise, bursting with pride at the success of our edible crafts.
Although we didn’t typically make garnishes for meals at home, one garnish we learned and continued to use was candied citrus peels. Lemon, orange and tangerine peels all could easily be turned into delicious bites of sugary sunshine.
Most people blanch the peels up to three times before candying them. I personally prefer a very strong orange taste and only blanch the peels if I’ve noticed the orange is especially bitter. These tangerines were very sweet so didn’t need the blanching step. If you’re using a less sweet variety, simply place the peels in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then drain the peels. You can repeat this a couple times before using the sugar syrup.
There are several different ways to cut your peels into strips. You can score the orange and peel the strips off, or you can cut the orange in half and scoop the flesh out before slicing. The way I find the easiest is to cut the orange into quarters. I then use a knife to slice the flesh from each quarter, and again to slice off as much pith as possible (pith is the spongy white stuff between the peel and flesh. It’s got most of the bitterness.). Don’t toss the orange flesh, it’s great in salads like this fennel and scallop salad.
Once you’ve simmered your peels long enough and let them dry a little, you can choose whether or not to roll them in sugar. I always do because it’s so pretty. If you’d like to curl your peels, simply wrap them around cut up pieces of drinking straws and place them in sugar. Let rest over night and you’ll have beautiful sugary spirals.
Now here’s the bonus. After you sugar your candied peels, don’t toss the sugar. Add a TBS of finely grated orange zest (I used a microplane grater) to the sugar. You now have beautiful, fragrant orange sugar! Want another bonus? Don’t toss that syrup your peels were simmering in. It should be a thick orange syrup that’s amazing drizzled in honey or mixed into salad dressings. Now I love it when I can make something without any waste!
Next week I’ll have a simple, decadent dessert for Valentine’s Day that these candied mandarin peels go perfectly with. What would you use candied orange peels with?
- 2 oranges or large tangerines (I used Royal Mandarins)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- Quarter oranges into wedges. Carefully slice the flesh away from the orange peels. Slice the peel of each wedge lengthwise into 5-6 strips. Try to slice most of the pith away from the peel.
- Mix the water with 2 cups of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring to make sure sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced orange peels and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the peels are soft and pliable.
- Use tongs to remove peels to a drying rack placed on a cookie sheet. Let dry for 1-2 hours, peels will still be sticky to the touch. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and roll candied peels in the sugar to coat.
- You can now eat the candied peels but I let them dry on the rack overnight before storing them. If you won’t be eating them within a week, store them packed in sugar in an airtight container.
Approximate cost/serving: Just the peels alone came out to only two cents per peel. The main reason for that is that mandarins were on sale so it was 45 cents for 2, and I also that I buy my sugar in bulk. The price is even lower if you consider that I also get orange syrup and orange sugar out of this!
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes and vegan as well!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 53Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is an estimate only.