This is the time of year that my kitchen is overflowing with citrus. I’ve been working through three, 3!, boxes of Meyer lemons that a friend recently delivered and I also have bowls of Cara Cara oranges, Blood oranges, mandarins, and grapefruit on my counter. The lemons are for marmalade and dehydrating, the Blood oranges for juicing, and the Cara Cara oranges for eating. All that citrus means a whole lot of peel! Do I toss it? Absolutely not. If it can be preserved, it gets preserved. And this is just the beginning!
Years ago a friend of mine, Janet Clarkson of The Old Foodie blog, posted on Facebook a trick to saving lemon peels. She simply saves them in the freezer in a baggie until she has enough to candy. She also said that once defrosted, the pith would be soft and really easy to remove. Wow, could this be true? It is indeed. I now save all my peels.
Following Janet’s lead, I now candy the lemon peels. But I wanted to make something different with the orange peels. I decided to try to preserve them in syrup. This is really fast and easy and delicious and they make an excellent gift, not to mention confection and cocktail garnish. And the syrup makes great marshmallows. Their uses are many! Finally, I’m writing it down and sharing it with you.
This is a no recipe recipe. I make this after I fill a baggie or two. Some weeks it is more often than others.
When I eat my oranges, I cut them in half and each half gets quartered. So, 8 slices per orange. I remove the peel and place it in the baggie in the freezer. Of course, I use organic citrus and wash the fruit. When I’m ready to preserve, I simply remove the baggies from the freezer and let them thaw. It usually takes about an hour. You will see that the pith is soft and very easy to remove with a paring knife. Once you have tidied up all your citrus pieces, place them in a soup pot and cover with water. You will want an extra couple of fingers worth of water, or so.
Now, gently simmer your orange peels until they are soft. This can take as little as 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them as orange varieties vary. Since they have been frozen, they will be a bit soft to begin with. The goal is to have the peels be firm enough to handle but soft enough to roll. When they are soft and pliable, remove from heat and drain. Save your liquid!
Strain the liquid to remove any solids. Measure the liquid and add equal amounts of sugar by volume (cup for cup). Add to the pot a vanilla bean, or two depending on how much you have cooking, that has been cut open lengthwise and with the insides scraped. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then let it simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the sugar has dissolved.
While the syrup is cooking away, sterilize your jars and lids. Once ready to use, gather your cooked peels and start rolling and carefully placing in jars. If the jar is deep, I use chopsticks to lower and place neatly. Yes, I like to roll them into tight little coils because they are pretty that way! Once your jars are filled with orange coils, fill with the hot syrup. Cover and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
They really are like candy.