Candied Orange Peel Day
Candied Orange Peel Day is May 4th
Candied orange peels remind us of childhood and the holidays. Their history clarifies why this sweet treat implicates this sense of nostalgia.
History And Use
Oranges are believed to be native to the tropical regions of Asia.The Roman conquests, the development of Arab trade routes, and the expansion of Islam contributed significantly to this dispersal. By the time Christopher Columbus sailed, orange trees were common in the Canary Islands. Today, oranges are cultivated in subtropical and tropical America, northern and eastern Mediterranean countries, Australia, and South Africa.
Prior to 1920, the orange was mainly considered a dessert fruit. The spread of orange-juice drinking, in contrast with eating of the fresh fruit, significantly increased the per capita consumption of oranges. Also important was the growing appreciation of the dietary value of citrus fruits; oranges are rich in vitamin C and also provide some vitamin A. The most important product made from oranges in the United States is frozen concentrated juice. Essential oils, pectin, candied peel, and orange marmalade are among the important by-products. Stock feed is made from the waste material left from processing.
Preserving in a sugary syrup – whether it’s made from honey, wine, grape must, or sugar – is a very effective way of preserving seasonal products. Preserved or candied fruits in China and Korea date back to the 10th century, and the Romans preserved quinces and other fruits in honey, or in desfrutem (boiled down new wine). Candied citrus in particular was an expensive gift, and an extravagant ingredient during the 14th and 15th centuries. In Medieval Europe, both honey and sugar were used for preserving a range of fruits, herbs, nuts, and spices. In the fifteenth century, it was suggested that sugar could be used for candying almonds, pine-nuts, hazelnuts, coriander, anise, and cinnamon, while honey was better for apples, gourds, citrons, and nuts. The Catalan book on confectionary Libre de totes maneres de confits gives both options in most cases, whereas the Italian Libro per Cuoco only uses honey for candying orange peel. Over time, as sugar became cheaper and more widely available, the use of honey became less common.
In England, by the sixteenth century, the primary distinction is between wet suckets (stored in syrup) and dry suckets (removed from the syrup and dried). Nearly every published cookbook and private receipt book that survives contains recipes for these kinds of sweetmeats, which would be served in the banquet course at the end of the meal. Many types of dry suckets still survive: in England, particularly around Christmas, baked goods often include candied citrus peel, candied ginger, glace cherries, and candied angelica.
Today's methods for candying citrus differ little from those of the eighteenth century. The whole fruit or the peel alone was briefly boiled in water and strained numerous times before being cooked in a series of sugar syrups. Whereas period recipes instruct the syrup-cooked pieces of fruit to be simply left to dry, most contemporary confectioners suggest tossing them in granulated sugar after the drying process. This keeps the pieces from sticking together and cloaks them in a glistening sugar coating.
Popular in the 17th century, was oranges “preserved after the Portugal fashion.” To do this, you would cut a quarter-sized hole in the side of an orange and scrape all the contents out. Then you’d boil the hollow peel for an hour or so to soften it and leach out some of the bitterness. Then you’d poach it in sugar syrup to candy it and fill it with ground candied orange peel and poach it some more. It came out like a solid, gleaming globe of bitter marmalade. The best part was that you could present it to your guests and then slice right through it (as one recipe put it, “It cuts like a hard-boiled egg”), revealing the bright candied interior.
How to Celebrate
Try your hand at making candied orange peels, they are quite delicious. Put your orange peels to good use to minimize your food waste and they make good gifts or pick me ups for yourself and friends.
Candy your way through life, making life just that much sweeter.