Well, it’s Christmas Eve. And when they say “not a creature was stirring” they really do mean it. The subways this morning were empty, almost abandoned. On my way to work, the city streets were quiet, and the air just hung still. For the first time in a long time, we have snow in New York on Christmas. It feels very appropriate.
I don’t care what anyone says, but I’ve been listening to holiday music since Thanksgiving ended. I can’t help myself. I also can’t get enough of these orangettes; I’ve been eating them as fast as I’ve been making them, which poses a problem since I was planning to give them away as gifts. Come January 1, I’ll have to draft some resolutions: and eating fewer sweets will certainly be one of them.
But orangettes are pretty much a must when there’s little but citrus in the way of fruit that excites. After you eat your orange or grapefruit, or use your lemon, the peel, the glorious, fragrant, delicious peel, remains and I can’t seem to throw it out. I gather a few fruits’ worth of peels in a small bag and then candy them when I have a little bit of time.
While I have a recipe for candied orange peel here, don’t let that be a limiting factor. There are lemons, and grapefruit, and clementines, and blood oranges, just to name a few. And when there’s so little greenery around us, these yellow and orange orbs brighten any room, cheer up any day. While I’m woefully late on suggesting you give these orangettes out as Christmas gifts (and since I’ve eaten all mine, I didn’t even follow my own advice), you can still make them for a New Year’s party. Or if you’re Russian – you can give them as a New Year’s gift to friends and family. They’re like little bursts of sunshine in your mouth and while cookies and cakes and brittle and candied nuts are all excellent, sometimes all you crave is a bite of citrus, gently mellowed by dark chocolate. At least that’s what I’m craving now.
I hope those of you celebrating Christmas have a wonderful and joyous holiday! And those of you who, like me, will be indulging in some Chinese food and a movie tomorrow, have excellent feasts as well. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, I wish you a very happy, warm, healthy holiday weekend filled with friends, family, love and a little bit of sunshine, be it actual sunshine, or the kind that comes wrapped in shiny cellophane bursting with citrus, chocolate and frosted with sugar.
4 large oranges
1 cup water
3 cups sugar + 1 cup sugar, divided
16 oz dark chocolate
1. Slice the ends off of the oranges, score the peel from one end to the other, and remove the peels off. Next, slice the peels into thin strips, trimming the edges.Take the 1 cup of sugar and pour it into a metal bowl and set it aside – you’ll need it later.
2. Place 2 medium sized pots on the stove and bring both to a boil. Place the peels in boiling water into the first pot, and blanch the peels for a few minutes. Rinse the peels, and repeat the blanching process a second time with pot number 2 (you can definitely stick with using just one pot, but the 2 pot method saves you time!). Also, blanching is very important – it is done to remove the bitterness of the peels, so do not skip these steps.
3. While you’re blanching the second time, prepare the simple syrup in the first pot that’s now empty. Combine the water and the 3 cups sugar the empty pot and bring the syrup to a simmer. Place the peels in the pot, and simmer for 1 hour, covered.
4. Once the peels have cooked, remove them from the pot, and place on a rack to cool and drain.
5. When the peels have cooled, drop a few at a time into a bowl with 1 cup of sugar in it and roll them in sugar until well-covered. Dry the peels in the open air for 1-2 days.
6. Melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. Dip the candied orange peels halfway into the chocolate, remove them quickly. Place the chocolate covered peels on parchment lined cookie sheet to dry.
7. Serve the same day or place in cellophane baggies tied with a ribbon.