Candied Citrus Peel

March 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm (Uncategorized) ()

By request, I’m finally getting around to putting this on here.
I was inspired to attempt this, back in January, by a post on Cheap Like Me, celebrating the 12 homemade days of Christmas. I tried following the procedure as outlined there, but hit a couple of snags. When the second batch of peel was put through later, I changed a few things towards the end of the process, and was much happier with the results (as have been the assorted taste-testers).

I happened to have a number of organic oranges, and a few organic lemons on hand, as part of the tail end of my marmalade and other citrus-related products craziness. Any kind of citrus should work, though I would strongly suggest sticking with organic, since this is entirely about the peels. (We juiced the orange themselves and had a lovely time combining them with a little champagne, but that’s another story.)

After the trials, here’s what I wound up deciding was the way it works for me:
Candied Citrus Peel

Oranges and lemons (I used probably around 10 oranges, plus 5-6 good-sized lemons, but this whole thing is very flexible)
Water, lots of
Sugar
Corn syrup (optional)
Some sugar or superfine sugar for coating

Wash the fruit. Score the citrus skin into quarters, and carefully remove from fruit. You may find making a small slice off of the top and bottom makes it easier to get the peel quarters off intact.

Now for the fun part (and for those who have done candied ginger, this should sound vaguely familiar): put peels into a non-reactive saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Drain, rinse in cold water, repeat. And again. (3 times total) Put the peel back into the saucepan, cover with water again, and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry (carefully – it might be a little squishy at this point). Slice the peel into long strips, about 1/4 inch wide.

This is the point where, if you suddenly realize just how much time this is eating, and that you need to put the rest off for later, you can spread out the peel on toweling for a bit until it’s only just barely damp, then wrap and put in the fridge for up to a few days before continuing.

The original recipe I was following had a set amount of sugar, water, and corn syrup for each ~4 oranges worth of peel, and followed the time-honored “cook until syrup is nearly absorbed, and don’t let it burn!” method. I did that for the first batch (as nearly as I could, given that 4 oranges worth of peel is a pretty inspecific measurement), but it was frustrating, required well over an hour of hovering over the stove (at 2 in the morning, but again, different story), and doing the ginger in extra syrup in between batches had given me ideas.
Instead, I mixed up an abundance of simple syrup, and simply allowed the pieces to simmer in that syrup as it slowly thickened, until I felt the were done – 1 hour, or a bit more, seemed pretty good to me, but I suspect it depends somewhat on the type of citrus in play.

To try and give a better idea, the original recipe was 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 6 tbsp corn syrup for that previously mentioned 4 oranges. If i was working with that many oranges worth of peel, I’d up that by at least 50%. Heck, double it if you want the no-burning safety margin. You’ll end up with extra syrup that has an interesting orange flavour to it, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I have plans for using mine as a sweetener, and for cooking, baking, or preserving fruits in later. I also would (and did, in the second batch) cut way back on the corn syrup, or eliminate it altogether. It’s intended to prevent crystalization problems, but if you’re not letting the syrup boil down to nothing, things shouldn’t get out of control on you. Use a tablespoon or two for insurance, if you like.

Anyway, back to actual procedure. Once the peel has cooked in the syrup for roughly an hour – fish out a piece now and then to taste: it’s a great way to learn how the texture changes as the syrup cooks through the peel – lift the peel pieces out of the syrup with forks or a slotted spoon, and spread them onto drying racks or sheets of waxed paper. I once again employed my dehydrator trays, which did a wonderful job. Allow to air dry (or boost with the dehydrator) until the pieces are cooled and only lightly sticky to the touch. Put some wax paper or parchment on a sheet pan, and add some of the sugar/superfine for coating. Add the peel pieces slowly, tossing in the sugar to get a light coat, then spread back out on a drying rack or in the dehydrator.

Allow to air dry for another 6-12 hours. You can go longer, but you might loose the pliability of the candy. Too little drying time could lead to problems in long-term storage.

——————-

These immediately remind people of those “fruit slices” candies you can find at well-stocked candy store, but better, though with fewer flavour options. Personally, I find the candied lemon peel amazing, and plan to make much more of that next year if I can get my mitts on sufficient quantities of organic lemons.

With the amount of fruit I started with, I ended up with somewhere around 4+ pints of candy (there was enough nibbling and such that I really couldn’t be precise, but since I wasn’t precise about measuring or weighing peel to start with, I’ll let my imprecision slide), and nearly a quart of syrup (pulled mostly from the last batch, but I put any leftover syrup/sugar from the first batch into the syrup for the second batch, so they ended up combined).

Permalink Leave a Comment

fancy name, isn’t it?

February 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm (Uncategorized) ()

This past Monday I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen during the evening. Partially, this was prepping food to leave behind when I headed out for my work week the next day. Partially it was unwinding from a nice vacation weekend, since recovery is generally necessary after such events. Partially, well…here’s the recipe I invented on the spot. I can explain. Really. And I will, after I share the recipe.

la cocotte de riz avec les épinards et le poulet fait frire (leftover mcnugget casserole)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups milk ( we generally have 2% around, but whatever’s handy should work)

4 ounces cream cheese

1-2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated

dash nutmeg

fresh-ground chipotle or other pepper of choice (optional, obviously)

salt (doesn’t take much, but a little helps bring out the cheese flavour)

2-3 cups fresh spinach

2-3 cups cooked short-grain rice (jasmine, in this case, though I think a brown would be lovely as well)

16 (roughly) chicken nuggets, pre-cooked (in fact, pulled out of the fridge as leftovers) and chopped into bite sized pieces

Make a roux. Add the milk (I started with 1 cup, then wound up adding the rest later in the process as it obviously needed more liquid. As much as 2 cups would easily work here, depending on how much sauce you like in casseroles), whisking thoroughly until it thickens. Add cream cheese in cubes or slices, and whisk until it all melts and combines. Add cheddar similarly. Once sauce is smooth and thick, put the spinach in, and stir over very low heat until the spinach starts to wilt, then add spices and salt to taste. Fold in rice, then chicken.

Spoon mixture into a suitable piece of bakeware, and put into a 350-ish oven for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges. If you like, and I do, you can then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to get a golden colour on top.

Slices well both fresh and leftover.

_____________

Apologies for the clumsy French title: I couldn’t resist. My French is terribly rusty, so that’s just from a translator program.

Right. I said I’d explain myself. Well…see, we were away from home all weekend on an anniversary trip, and there was lots of good food, and I’m starting to suspect that after too many good quality meals away from home, there’s a rebellion point where you just want something trashy.  We were on the way home Sunday evening when the driver decided he was hungry. I offered to indulge him in one of his favourite fast food treats, since we’d be near one on the way and it’s not available where we live, but it was indicated that this was too far away.

For reference, he never eats at McDonalds: 3 years, and I’ve never caught him at it. But I opened my big mouth to tease him about the possibility of getting in on that 50 nuggets for 10 dollars deal, and next thing I know, we’ve pulled over at a little town off of the highway, and I’m headed in to see what they can do for me. They weren’t, alas, offering that deal, but I decided this was too amusing to pass up (did I mention sleep deprivation?), so I went ahead and got 40 – we’d already started talking about how to use the leftovers.

Several fun conversations about trashy dinner/casserole options later, this was what wound up being produced for dinner on Monday night. I am both quite proud and thoroughly ashamed. It was tasty. If we happened to end up with protein nuggets of a compatible type again, I might well do it again. I’ve gotten good enough with sauces that a bechamel no longer even remotely makes me twitch – I just throw one together, then realize that I used to find it challenging to get it to come out properly.

On the whole, a win, albeit a terribly silly one.

_____________

Now, just to redeem myself, one of the other projects that night:

kona mocha panna cotta

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cream

1 tbsp fine ground kona mocha (or coffee/flavoured coffee of choice, of course. adjust amount to suit your taste)

1 envelope gelatin powder

1/4 sugar (next time, I’m cutting this to 3 tbsp – just a hair too sweet, but that might have been the turbinado)

homemade chocolate syrup

fresh strawberries

Heat 1/2 cup milk until it’s hot to the touch, then sprinkle on the coffee and leave it to steep for a while. Straining the coffee grounds out after steeping is of course an option, and one I think most people would take, but I didn’t bother – they mostly settle to one part of the finished product, and the grittiness made an interesting texture and flavour contrast.

Pour contents of gelatin envelope over remaining milk in a small saucepan, and allow to bloom for at least 5 minutes.

Once gelatin has bloomed, heat milk over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Add in coffee-flavoured milk, cream, and sugar, and heat again until sugar has dissolved. Don’t let it boil.

Prepare  ramekins or other serving dishes with a light coating of butter or oil, then pour a spoonful of chocolate sauce into the bottom of each. (This assumes inverting onto a plate before eating – if that’s too much hassle, you could skip greasing the ramekins, and break out the chocolate sauce when it’s time to serve.) Ladle the milk mixture into the dishes, then place in the refridgerator 8-12 hours, or overnight. To serve, loosen by dipping in hot water and/or running a knife around the edges of the panna cotta, then invert onto a plate. Add fresh strawberries. Eat. Make happy noises. Alternatively, just pull the dish out of the fridge, grab a spoon, and dig in. Happy noises are still encouraged.

For me, this fills four of our little glass oval ramekins. It’s a fairly soft gel when it’s done. There’s really no limit to variations on panna cotta, but this is the first time I just glanced at a few options, then did it without a recipe safety net, hence logging it here.

______________

Other projects that evening? Homemade corn/cheese crackers, which kept three sheet pans busy for quite some time as batch after batch rotated in and out of the oven, and sour cream bread, which was set aside to rise overnight and bake in the morning.

Next week, I try to actually get measurements on the new “slightly more from scratch” frozen burrito recipe. And clean the house. And maybe make some more bread. Also, test the second run of kiwi-lime marmalade, which wound up with different proportions for some reason, and post the recipe if I’m pleased enough with it.

And yes, I still need to get the ginger pictures up. Hopefully that will happen before we manage to use up all the syrup and have to make more.

Permalink Leave a Comment

honey-candied ginger

February 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I love ginger. I adore candied ginger, and tend to mince it up and pop it into just about anything remotely sweet that’s about to be baked or canned. While I’m lucky enough to have a semi-local source for inexpensive candied ginger, I have fond memories of attempting to make my own some years back, and it seemed like a good idea to try again. Differently.

Upon acquiring some 2 pounds of fresh ginger from the store, I started researching recipes. What I found was a fascinating mix of methods, ranging from “stick sliced ginger in sugar water and boil the tar out of it for 20 minutes and call it done” to things that I’m fairly sure would take 2-3 days of boiling, draining, steeping, adding sugars and flavourants, and generally allowing the concept of candied ginger to take over the kitchen indefinitely.

I like the stuff, but not quite _that_ much – besides, I remember the recipe I used last time wasn’t nearly that complex, though it did have that tough little clause about cooking until all or nearly all the syrup absorbed, which tends to lead to headaches while trying to avoid scorching the stuff when you desperately need to pee/keep the cat from breaking something/insert minor emergency here.

Fortunately for me, a friend from college shared her method, which fell nicely in between the two extremes, and allowed for enjoying the syrup leftover afterwards.

I like tweaking recipes. One of my favourite ginger sodas has a honey base. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Honey-candied Ginger

~2 lbs fresh ginger, peeled and sliced to between 1/4 – 1/3 inch (me, I just slice away.  the boyfriend has a sense of precision that I apparently lack. you can tell who sliced what a good portion of the time, but hey, it all tastes good.)

salt (yes, really)

3 cups sugar, plus a bit for dusting

2 cups honey

water, lots of

First, clear off your afternoon, and possibly your evening. This isn’t a quick process, even leaving out the pause I had to take partway through. Then peel and slice the ginger, put into a non-reactive pan, and cover with water with just a dash of salt in it. Bring it to a boil, and keep at a simmer or slow boil for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Put the ginger back into water with another dash of salt, and do it again. And again. (yes, that’s three times, 30 minutes each. No, I wasn’t precise about that, either.) Be impressed by how absolutely nasty the water looks by the end of each boil.

Now mix 6 cups of water, the sugar, and the honey into the pan, and bring to a boil to get everything dissolved. Add the ginger, and allow to simmer for a very long time, probably at least 2-3 hours, depending on how thick you sliced, how well you control your simmer, and your personal preferences and whims. You’re looking for the ginger to go translucent, but there’s also flavour and texture components to this, so play with it to suit yourself. I simmered uncovered for nearly 2 hours, then shut it off and lidded it while I went out to run errands for a couple of hours. When I got back, I brought it back up to a simmer, lidded, for another hour or more, then took off the lid for another 20-30 minutes of cooking, decided it looked about right, turned off the heat. The lid on/lid off was purely arbitrary, and had to do with my not wanting to have to tweak amounts if too much water evaporated, but I don’t think it would have been a problem anyway.

Depending on your heat tolerance, wait a few minutes or don’t, and carefully fish the ginger out of the syrup (not with your fingers!), spreading it on racks to dry – I used my dehydrator trays, which I am learning to quietly worship for making this sort of thing much easier. Remind me to tell y’all about the candied citrus peel debacle sometime. Allow to dry, assisted or otherwise, until just slightly sticky to the touch (I overshot a tad, but it’s all good, right?), then toss the pieces in some additional sugar, spread back out on trays or waxed paper or cookie sheets or wherever, and allow to dry for a while longer, then store in a jar or other air-tight container.

Backing up, there should be a lovely amber-coloured syrup in that pan once you’ve fished out that ginger. Don’t even think about throwing it away. Jar it and put it in the fridge, or seal it and pop it on the shelf.  (It’s sugar water. unless you have a history of honey going bad on you, don’t worry too much about shelf life on this stuff. Besides, it won’t be around long, right?) A few spoonfuls of this syrup, some soda water, and a touch of lemon juice for acidity, and you’ve got a really good ginger ale. I’m told that the syrup is great for other things in the plain sugar version, and further experimentation will commence shortly with the honey-syrup. Or it will if I can handle not just having it all to drink.

Output:

1 1/2 quart jars loosely packed with candied ginger – I’d love to give a weight, but a good kitchen scale is still on my “want” list.

nearly 1 quart of a fairly loose syrup – I could have reduced this down, but for soda purposes, it’s pretty close to ideal as it is

Initial impression:

The candied ginger is a little ‘crispier’ than the store-bought sugar version I’m used to. I’m unsure how much of that is age, how much the process, and how much the use of honey. Time will answer the first question, hopefully. My boyfriend thinks there’s more ‘bite’ in the flavour, but I’m not sure whether I agree. I think that may be the case on the larger pieces, though, simply due to size and cooking time. It’s quite yummy, very gingery, and a simply gorgeous colour. The first trial on the soda was a definite win as well, even still warm and without straining out ginger remnants.

Pictures are in the works, promise! I begged for photos to happen of the ginger after I set it out to dry, because it was just too pretty to be neglected, and I will get them up here soon.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Oranges, limes, and procrastination

January 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I’ve been wanting to write up some sort of grand post about where we are now, where we’d like to be years down the road, and all the inspirations for me to be writing this out. However, I’ve rather been lacking in introspection time to write such a post, and I realized that I was missing important (for some definition thereof) things in the meantime.

So, then, I suppose my penchant for drama and grand statements will simply have to wait, while the day to day tidbits of life take precedence. Yes, I’m fully aware that the whole reason I started this blog was to keep track of the day-to-day.  Apparently being fully aware of something and enacting it are two different things. Go figure.

At any rate, as is typical when I have a weekend ‘off’, I’ve been at the non-apartment home (I’ll explain this later, really), being domestic. This weekend’s stated project, aside from laundry and house-cleaning? Marmalade. ‘Tis the season when it is possible to get organic citrus at a price affordable to us, and I’ve been wanting a good excuse to do more canning.

There are now 3 1/2 pints of traditional marmalade in the canning cabinet, and 1 pint of kiwi-lime marmalade, as well. I suspect the kiwi lime, at the least, will be produced in larger quantities shortly, and as the recipe (though loosely based on a microwave recipe readily available on the ‘net) would only otherwise exist in my head, here it is:

Kiwi-Lime Marmalade

2 limes

5 kiwis

3/4 – 1 cup sugar

partial package of pectin (optional, of course)

Zest limes, chopping zest into fine shreds. Juice the limes. Peel kiwis, and dice.  Put fruit, juice, and sugar into non-reactive saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil. Cook to desired state of doneness (10-15 minutes, in this case), stir in pectin, and bring back to a boil for 1 minute, then put in hot, clean jars, and seal.

I plan to try a couple of variations on this soon, including cooking to jelly stage so I don’t have to use packaged pectin, and seeing if that improves or degrades the flavours. I generally have a strong preference for fresher, brighter notes in my preserves and jams, so I do tend to do reduced sugar, shortened cooking times, and use pectin to achieve a consistency other than ‘syrup’.  I also plan to puree and strain a batch to make soda syrup, possibly with additions such as ginger.

The other recipe worth noting was today’s invention, due to a misfire in the kitchen last night. This is not in its final form as of yet, but I’m fairly pleased for a first try. This came out of once again attempting Alton Brown’s overnight oatmeal recipe (in this case with dried cranberries, cherries, and peaches), and once again being rather unhappy with the overwhelming sour fruit notes it produced. I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of the entire pot without making some attempt to salvage it, so I threw this together off the cuff:

Oatmeal Fruit Scones/Biscuits

1 cup ‘overnight oatmeal’ (this is rather soupy, or generally turns out that way for me, anyway)

2-3 tbsp honey

2 cups wheat flour (I happened to have the ‘high fiber white’ on hand, but a blend of white and fresh whole wheat would probably have been better)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

5 tbsp unsalted butter

Mix honey into oatmeal, and allow to cool if it hasn’t already. Add leavenings to flour, then work in cold butter with fingertips.  Stir in oatmeal mixture. Work dough just until it all comes together. Pat out on floured board, cut, and bake at 425F for ~15 minutes. Makes 8 large biscuits.

This gave me a chance to use our ‘new’ cast iron biscuit pan, which was found in Saturday’s antique store hunt and re-seasoned yesterday evening, along with several other cast iron acquisitions we’ve made in the last few weeks/months.  (I’m sure I’ll be talking about the lovely cast iron we’ve rescued at a later date.)

As for the scones, they’re pretty decent. I need to add some extra salt – there was some in the oatmeal, but not enough to manage the whole recipe – or switch to salted butter, but I usually bake with unsalted. More honey wouldn’t hurt, if you’re in a sweet-tooth mood, but not necessary. I suspect more baking soda would have helped, though I’m also about to go check and see if it’s just that my baking powder has finally given up on me.

Goal for the next 2 weeks: manage that ‘where we are now’ post, and figure out a good way to take pictures of some of my projects along the way. Also, use up the rest of the abudance of citrus currently residing in the kitchen.

Permalink Leave a Comment