When you think about crafting homemade gifts out of things you were going to throw away, do you imagine pasting magazine pages on oatmeal canisters, or weaving corn husks into throw rugs? If you’re crafty, go for it. But I’m talking about making excellent candy out of food waste. With no special skills or equipment, you can make a truly appealing gift out of orange peels, turning trash to treasure. A quick dip in velvety dark chocolate makes them irresistible.
Candied orange peels are truly the OG thrifty, food waste-reducing, yet classy treat. You might associate them with a depression-era grandma, or a British show you watch on PBS, but DIY low-waste foods are as valuable now as ever. Preserving fruits and their peels in honey is an ancient technique, made easier with granulated sugar.
Save Orange Peels As You Go
One of the best things about making candied orange peels is that you can eat oranges all week, remove the peels in quadrants (more about that later), and save the peels in a zip-top bag.
Then, all you need is some sugar and water to make plain candied peels (and a bit of chocolate, if you want to dip them for a crowd-pleasing gift).
This ancient preservation technique is deceptively simple. As the simmering sugar syrup infuses into the fruit, it creates an environment where the microorganisms that might cause mold or spoilage cannot thrive. It works out well for us, because the sweetness makes the bitter pith and peel both delicious and long-lasting.
The Question of Pith
Some recipes will direct you to spend time scraping the layer of white pith from the peel. This isn’t necessary, and is so fussy that you might not want to make the peels at all. The pith absorbs sugar and becomes sweet, and a hint of bitterness is just part of the symphony of flavors.
Choosing Your Chocolate
While you are free to use your favorite chocolate, the overwhelming majority of fans prefer dark chocolate to go with oranges. The bracing, tannic, bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate serves to accentuate the sweetness and citrusy sparkle of the peel itself. If you’re a milk chocolate fan, dip away, but the overall effect will be sweeter and a little flatter.
To Temper or Not To Temper?
The chocolate bars you buy at the store have a glossy surface, and they snap when you break them. That’s because the chocolate is tempered, and when you melt it, it goes out of temper, as all the carefully formed fat crystals in the chocolate transform into random patterns that won’t set as glossy or firm. You can dip in un-tempered, melted chocolate, but chances are as it cools it will look slightly dull, swirled, or have a softer texture. If you want a glossy, professional snap to your chocolate, go ahead and temper it.
To get the un-tempered chocolate to harden, let it set, then transfer to a container and refrigerate. If you want to cover the un-tempered look of the chocolate, you can sprinkle the just dipped peels with decorative colored sprinkles or jimmies, even toasted and minced nuts, if you plan on serving within a couple of days.
Orange Peels Jazz Up Baked Goods
If you leave your candied orange peels un-dipped, you can chop them to add to muffins, cookies, or yes, fruitcake. Candied fruit and peel was always part of the rum-soaked fruitcakes we eat at the holidays. Anywhere that pops of sweet orange flavor would add excitement, you can add some minced peel.
More Holiday Candy Making Classics
Chocolate Covered Orange Peels
Because you will be eating the peels, it’s best to use organic oranges, to avoid any chemicals sprayed on the fruit.
2 large organic oranges
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 cup turbinado or granulated sugar, for tossing with the candied peels
12 ounces (340g) semisweet chocolate
Colored jimmies or finely chopped nuts, for sprinkling
Prepare the pan:
Line a half sheet pan or rimmed baking pan with foil. Set aside.
Prep the orange peel strips:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
Using a paring knife, trim 1/4 inch off the top and bottom on the oranges. Discard the trimmed tops and bottoms. Now, cut the peel on each orange into quadrants, to make 4 vertical segments. You can leave the fruit itself whole, to eat later, if desired. Remove each section of peel in 1 piece. Lay flat on a cutting board and use a chef's knife to cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips (leave the pith on).
Drop the orange peel slices in the pot of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse, and drain well.
Make the simple syrup:
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Cook the orange peel, then toss in the sugar:
Add the boiled peel slices. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the syrup bubbling but not boiling over. Simmer until the peel is very soft when pierced with a paring knife, about 45-50 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to maintain a hearty simmer.
When the peel is ready, the syrup will register 235-245°F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, and the bubbles will be very visible and pop with a snap.
Pour the sugar into a large, wide bowl. Lift the orange peel strips from the syrup with tongs and drop in the sugar. Turn to coat, then transfer to the foil-lined pan, not touching. Reserve the syrup for another use. (The orange-flavored syrup is quite thick, stir in 1/4 cup water and simmer briefly, then cool to use to sweeten cocktails, tea, or bowls of fruit and yogurt.)
Let stand in a well-ventilated spot until the coating is dry, 1 to 2 days. (If you have a cooling rack, you can set the peels on the rack for a faster drying time.)
Dip the peels in melted chocolate:
When the orange peels are firm and dry to the touch, line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
Chop the chocolate in small pieces. Place the chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pot of over simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth, then transfer to a 2-cup glass measuring cup.
You can melt your chocolate in the microwave and dip the orange peels right into the cup. Place the chopped chocolate in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, stir, and continue microwaving in 30 seconds bursts, stirring after each, until smooth.
Dip each strip in chocolate, covering about 3/4 of the peel.
Place each on the prepared pan as you go. Sprinkle with colored jimmies or nuts, if desired.
When the chocolate has set, transfer to an airtight container, separating layers with waxed paper, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
TIP: Humidity is the enemy of chewy, firm candied peels, so keep your treats away from moisture. Pop them in the freezer and they last for 4 months or more.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||13%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 56g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||9%|
|Total Sugars 51g|
|Vitamin C 18mg||91%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|