The practice of preserving fruit in sugar dates back to antiquity. More than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Romans preserved fruit in this way using honey.
During the Crusades, Europeans arriving in the Middle East discovered pâtes de fruits, jams and candied fruit. These sweet and flavourful confections eventually made their way to France by the 14th century.
In his 1555 Traité des fardements et confitures, the French apothecary and seer Nostradamus (1503-1566) provided instructions on how to “preserve whole limes and oranges, quartered quince with sugar to make cotignac [quince jelly], pignolat, sugar candy, syrups, candied pears and marzipan tarte.”
To this day, France is the world’s biggest producer of candied fruit, notably thanks to production in the town of Apt (Vaucluse), which considers itself the world capital of candied fruit. In 1650, Madame de Sévigné described the place as a “cauldron of jams.”
Candied orange peel, either on its own or covered in chocolate, is a wonderful confection to have on hand for the holidays. Candied peel can also be made in a large batch and stored in airtight containers for later use in cakes, candies and other treats.
Chocolate-covered candied orange peel (Orangettes)
- 8 brightly coloured organic oranges, preferably navel
- 450 grams sugar
- 45 ml lemon juice
- 125 ml water
- 100 grams sugar for coating candied strips
- 500 grams semisweet dark chocolate
- water for blanching peels
- Wash and brush the oranges, cut off and discard the ends. Using an orange peeler or small sharp knife, make a few vertical cuts down the sides and carefully peel away each section of skin. (Use the fruit for another purpose). Flatten the peel one section at a time and cut away the pith (white part) with a sharp knife. The final peel should be around 3 mm thick. Slice each piece diagonally into thin strips, about 4 mm wide.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the peels. Boil for two minutes, remove with a skimmer and rinse under cold water. Repeat this blanching process two more times, using fresh water each time. This process is very important, as it removes the bitterness from the peels. The third time, rinse the peels under cold water and drain.
- Combine the lemon juice and sugar with 125 ml of water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and toss in the orange peel strips. Cook, covered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. The peels should become translucent during this process. Remove the lid and leave the peels in the syrup for eight hours, covered with a piece of parchment paper placed directly on the surface.
- Using tongs, remove the strips of peel from the syrup and place on a wire rack to drain. Allow to air dry overnight, until the strips are no longer wet but only slightly tacky to the touch.
- Coarsely chop the chocolate and melt in a heat-proof bowl set above a pan of simmering water.
- Using small tongs, dip each strip of orange peel in the melted chocolate and place on piece of parchment paper. You can cover the strips with chocolate either completely or partially (sprinkling a little sugar on the exposed peel). When the chocolate has hardened, store the chocolate-covered candied orange peel in an airtight container at room temperature. Candied orange peel is also delicious on its own. Simply dip the strips in a little caster sugar.
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