Yes, I really do curl up on the sofa reading “gode” “cookery” books or food histories. Two summers ago I spent two weeks in Provonce retracing Julia Child’s footsteps. So, yeah, I’m kinda single these days, but I can apply what I’ve learned from medieval cookbooks to make some of the best candied fruits you’ll ever eat.
Candying fruit was something I taught myself through trial and error by following the directions from 16th century manuscripts. Much later I learned the science behind what I was doing and was then able to candy whole pineapples, melons, apples, which is eye pleasing but takes a couple of months. Candying sliced oranges can take anywhere between one day to a week and I suggest you try.
Slice an orange into fairy thick slices of about 1/4 inch and place them in a bowl of water to help remove the bitterness from the pith in the peel. Change the water three to six times a day for three days. This is the method I prefer. Alternatively, you can put the slices in a sauce pan and bring them to simmer for ten minutes, pour out the water, and put the slices in ice water. Cooking weakens the cell walls, removing the bitterness; putting them in ice water forces the cells to contract, expelling more bitterness in the liquid.
Just like we did with the apples, we add half the weight of sugar to the oranges so that they’re mostly coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave them alone. The next day move the slices around to dissolve the sugar. If it’s very liquid, add 1/4 cup white sugar. If the sugar is not fully dissolved wait. The speed at which the sugar dissolves depends on the ambient temperature of the workspace — which makes a sous vide very handy. Your goal is to increase the sugar in the liquid slowly over several days to establish equilibrium through osmosis: The sugar in the syrup changes places with the water in the orange slices: Sugar goes into the fruit, water comes into the syrup. When the amount of sugar is the same in the fruit and the syrup we say the fruit is candied.
You can place the orange slices and sugar in a ziplock bag, submerge in water to remove the air, then keep it in the sous vide between 27 to 30 degrees Celsius for the whole process. The regular temperature will speed the process.
You can also speed the process along by cooking the slices all at once, or a little each day. With your slices in a sauce pan turn on the heat and bring it to a boil for five minutes, turn it off and cover. Eight to twelve hours later add 1/4 cup white sugar and bring to a boil for five minutes, turn off and cover. Do this twice a day until they candy, usually 2 or 3 days.
The fastest way is to cook the slices in their weight in sugar with enough water to liquify the sugar. Keep the slices covered with wax paper, but keep the pot uncovered so the water will evaporate. Cooking this way you can have peels in one to three hours.
Once the fruit is candied you have several options. You can keep them in the syrup, dry them, crystalize them, dip them chocolate, decorate with them, or just eat them as is. You can also soak them in rum or brandy. Myself, I like to crystalize them and eat them as a treat, or chop them up and put them on or in ice cream — or ice cream-less. Chocolate covered is yet another favorite.
Candying fruit and vegetables is simple. It really is. It’s just unfamiliar. All you need is a bowl, plastic wrap, sugar and fruit — and time, but just five minutes a day. And in addition to having candied fruit you’ll have syrup for, ah, well, that’s a future blog post already written.
Candied Orange Slices
- 1 orange in 1/4 inch slices
- up to 1 cup of sugar, or twice the weight of the orange (you many not need it all, it depends on how much moisture is in the orange)
Slow version: Place the sliced oranges in a large bowl of water. Change the water two or three times a day for up to three days to remove bitterness.
Layer the soaked orange slices in 1/4 cup of the sugar, cover tightly with plastic wrap so no air gets in. Leave it alone for at least 12 -24 hours. Unwrap. The juice in the slice and the sugar have melted and formed a syrup. Move the the oranges around to help dissolve any remaining sugar and add 1/4 more sugar. If it doesn’t dissolve completely, that’s fine. Cover tightly and leave it alone for another 24 hours. Unwrap. Move the orange slices around. If the syrup is very liquid add up to 1/4 cup more sugar and stir to dissolve. If it is not, add no sugar and wrap it tightly. Leave it along for another 24 hours, unwrap and test again. Do this for at least seven days. The orange will become slightly opaque. Store in the syrup, or dry on a wire rack.
Partially cooked method: To remove the bitterness either use the method above or in a pan with 4 cups of water bring the orange slices to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Drain the orange slices and put them in ice water for five minutes then place them back in the pan. Layer 1/2 cup of sugar with the orange slices in the pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave alone for 12-24 hours. Unwrap, add 1/4 cup water and turn on the heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir to dissolve. Cover and leave alone for 8-12 hours. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Turn off the heat and cover. Repeat over the next few days until the oranges candy.
Fully cooked method: Set aside 1 cup of sugar in a pan with 1 cup of water. In a separate pan bring the orange slices to a boil in 4 cups of water, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes to remove the bitterness in the pith. Drain the orange slices and put them in ice water for five minutes then place them in the sugar water. Bring to a boil, reduce to the lowest setting and simmer until the liquid becomes a thick syrup. Turn off the heat and let them come to room temperature in the syrup. Place them on wire racks to dry and dip in sugar or chocolate.
Note: If you have a sacrometer, you want to bring the solution from 45% – 75% over a period of days, preferably increasing the sugar density by 5% – 10% each day.