I’ll tell you soon: this is a recipe that will take a looot of time 🙂 but mostly just to wait.
And before going to the recipe, I think an introduction is needed 🙂
Maybe some of you will think “why so much effort, when with a little money we can buy?” 😀 well, actually the good quality artisanal candied orange peels are quite expensive (also 25-35 euros/kg), and the cheaper ones are in most of cases preserved with sulfur dioxide and they are for sure never made with the best quality oranges available on the market (and it’s an euphemism).
Instead with this recipe you can make by your own some amazingly tasty and perfumed orange peels, and also people that usually don’t like “candied orange peels” will like yours, 100% sure 😉
In Italy, especially in southern Italy, candied orange peels are used very often in the traditional sweets, and good quality peels make a big difference in the final result of those recipes. Also in the Panettone.
To make this recipe has a sense only if you can get some very good quality and not treated oranges, and the reason why I decided to make it here in Hungary it’s because also here in Budapest I found a couple of good stores that weekly import very good quality and not treated Navel type oranges from southern Italy: to recognize if the oranges have been picked up when perfectly ripe from the tree and not earlier to be stocked in stock chambers using usually ethylene to develop the color of the peels from green to orange (but without developing their taste, the oranges are indeed “not climacteric” fruits, it means that their ripening finishes in the moment they are removed from the tree and they cannot ripen later, if not just with the use of external ethylene, but they will not develop the same aroma and flavor than the oranges that fully ripened on the trees) check if the oranges are sold with their green leaves. In stock chambers the leaves become yellow and fall down.
Moreover treated oranges are usually shiny because beeswax or paraffin wax is often used on them, not treated oranges instead are not shiny but quite opaque.
I repeat, it must be explicitly specified that they are NOT treated, because products like the biphenyl/diphenyl (E230, anti-mould often used on treated citruses) or the tiabendazole (another anti-mould, E233, forbidden in the European Union as food additive but not in many other countries, so it shouldn’t be a good idea to eat it) penetrate in the very porous orange peels and even if you wash and brush them you will not remove those products from the peels.
You need oranges with a thick peel, and most of people agree that the Navel type are probably the best choice to make candied peels (more precisely, in the case of southern Italian oranges, it’s usually the Washington Navel being used for this, and the best ones are the ones ready in december/january), ask to your fruit seller if he has or if he can order for you. But of course if you want you can try also with other types of orange, what’s important is their quality and that they are absolutely not treated.
Online you will find also other methods, many of those are faster than this one, but this is the one that keeps better the important essential oils of the peels in my opinion (and as a consequence it should keep a better aroma and flavor), because we are boiling them very little compared to other methods. Other methods say for example to boil the peels in the syrup for hours, even a whole afternoon, until it’s completely absorbed, or to boil the peels more times and for longer time in water before starting with the syrup.
Just to know it, to make it perfectly and professionally you should have a refractometer to measure the exact Brix degrees of the syrup (in the end the syrup has to measure 70 Brix, it means that is 70% sugar and 30% water).
But “empirically” we can go close to it also with normal home tools 🙂 and for a lot of days your home will have an incredibly good orange fragrance in every room! A very nice contrast with the snow outside 🙂
Moreover, it would be enough a peels-sugar rate of 1:2, but I prefer to use a 1:2,5 rate avoiding the risk of being short of syrup (it has always to cover completely the peels) during the following days and avoiding to prepare some new syrup later during the process. To be absolutely sure you can go up to 1:3.
Let’s see how to make it now.
- 1 kg of orange peels (about 10/12 oranges, Navel type)
- 2,5 Kg of sugar
- 2,5 l of water
- You have to remove the peel in big pieces, I suggest to make a surfacing cut from top to down and divide it in this way in 4 or 6 slices, and try to remove them all in similar size (if you don’t want to cut them in one day you can do it also in a couple of days, but if you are in 3-4 people at home you can eat 10 oranges in one day). Then take a large bowl full of cold water and put the peels inside, they have to stay there 2-3 days, and it’s better if you change the water twice a day, this will help to remove part of the bitterness in the white part of the peels. Keep only the perfect peels, if there are some parts with defects/ugly parts then discard those parts.
- After those 2-3 days we can start to prepare our candied peels. First take a big pot and boil some water, then when it’s boiling drop all the peels inside: we have to make them a little bit softer, about 10 minutes should be enough, also because if we cook them longer we are going to lose more essential oils (but if you boil them for a longer time, 1 or 2 hours, they will be softer and they will be ready some days before, that’s up to you, personally I prefer some days more and to preserve more aroma and flavor, 5 days rather than 7 days it’s not changing much). Then take them out and drain them.
- In the same big pot (throw away the previous boiling water) we have to prepare the syrup: heat the 2,3 l of water and add all the sugar in 3-4 times, and keep mixing until all the sugar has diluted in the water (just to know, at the beginning our syrup measures 50 Brix degrees, 50% water and 50% sugar).
- When the syrup start boiling let it boil 4/5 minutes, then switch off and drop all the peels inside. The peels have to stay completely submerged, to do that you can for example take a smaller pot cover and you can place it on the peels reverse and with a weight on it. Don’t cover the pot, at least until it’s hot the syrup, otherwise the moisture will reduce the sugar content.
- After 24 hours drain the peels and take them out from the syrup, then switch on the heat and when it starts boiling let it boil for 4/5 minutes, then switch off and put back the peels in the hot syrup, with the weight on them to keep them submerged.
- You have to repeat this step every 24 hours, for at least 6/7 days, maybe some days more (in this case my candied orange peels were ready at the 7th day). The candied peels will be ready when the syrup is thicker, when it’s cold it will create a very thin crust on the surface and it will have a texture almost similar to the honey, and the candied peels should be quite transparent (as I wrote in the introduction, technically it’s ready when the syrup reaches the 70 Brix degrees). In the case the peels are not yet candied and you are going shorter of syrup, then you can add some new syrup otherwise you risk to caramelize them. To do this perfectly you should know the exact Brix degrees of the syrup in that specific day, but empirically after 4/5 days the Brix degrees should be around 60/65, so in that case prepare a new syrup to add using about 60/65% sugar and 35/40% water. That’s why I said that for a homemade process it’s better to begin with a higher amount of syrup, if you don’t want to risk you can start with a peels-sugar rate of 1:3. But for me it was enough 1:2,5 and I didn’t need to prepare extra syrup.
- When they are ready you can drain them on a grill, for about 12-24 hours, and when they are dry you can pass them on some sugar and you can keep them in sterilized jars, better if wrapped in some oily paper (some people keep them also in freezer, but I didn’t try). Otherwise you can preserve them in sterilized jars with their syrup, better if diluted with 30% of glucose, or in alternative 30% of acacia honey (because it’s one of the very few honeys that doesn’t crystallize and it has a lighter flavor, also chestnut honey doesn’t crystallize but it has a too much strong flavor that would ruin the orange flavor), in this way you can store your candied orange peels for a longer time, also 2 years if you keep them in a cool and dry place. If you choose this option bring the syrup to the boil and add it in the jars when still very hot, and close the jars. Moreover, in the syrup the peels will remain softer. When you need them, just remove the peels from the syrup one day before and let them dry on a grid, then cut them at the size you need. They are also very good simply covered with chocolate 🙂
- I know it was a long job, but these candied peels have nothing to share with the ones you buy in supermarkets, we are talking about a completely different thing…much better, of course 🙂 your sweets will not be the same than before!
PS: of course, you can keep the exceeding syrup too: put it also in sterilized jars, and use it where you would use a honey, or diluted in some water to aromatize a sponge cake.
Orange: Navel type from southern Italy, not treated, bought at “Dolce Vita Konyha” in Budapest