Each year we are bombarded with fruits from our trees and that of my parents. I’ve decided that the best way to “share the love” is to make a variety of treats to pass on to friends and loved ones.
Christmas is usually the time when I distribute the goods. Depending on what we were able to grow, and what I felt like making throughout the year, the gift bags might include jams and jellies, flavored brandies, pickles, cookies, etc. I’d rather spend the time in the kitchen than in the crowded stores!
One type of treat that Greeks are really fond of is candied fruits. There are different ways to do the process, but most include gently boiling the fruit in a strong sugar syrup and then repeating the process multiple times with increasingly stronger concentrations of fresh syrup. Eventually the fruit becomes crystallized, and is often called glacé fruit.
As much as I like some of these delicacies, I often find that the fruits can lose too much flavor and end up tasting like soft lumps of sugar. So instead, I decided to simplify the process and prepare the fruits more like traditional spoon sweets, but then allow the fruits to dry. This way you still have a sweet treat, but also have one that tastes like the original fruit. Best yet is that the process will create a lovely syrup that you can use for so many things! Think flavored drinks, topping for yogurt or ice cream, and of course, waffles and pancakes!
Candied Oranges Recipe
- fresh oranges, choose sweet varieties like Navel
- whole cloves
- whole allspice berries
Slice oranges in thick slices, not quite 1/2 inch wide. You need to slice parallel to the orange’s “equator”. Lay them flat in a wide pan. The amount of oranges you do is up to you and how big of a pan you have.
Mix one cup sugar with one cup water for each orange you sliced and pour enough of this mixture over the oranges until they are covered. If you don’t have enough room to hold all the sugar water in your pan, then cover it and set it aside as you will use it later. Add 1 – 2 cloves and 1 – 2 allspice berries to the pan for each orange. Cover the pan and allow it to sit 12 to 24 hours someplace where it will not be disturbed.
Uncover and bring the contents almost to a boil. If your syrup level was really high in the pan, you may want to skim off some of the syrup first to prevent it from boiling over. Don’t toss the syrup! You will add it back in after the level cooks down in the pan.
Bring the heat down just enough to maintain a steady, gentle boil that doesn’t bubble over your pan and doesn’t cause your oranges to get broken apart. As the liquid cooks down, add in any syrup you needed to remove or that didn’t fit. As the liquid thickens, you may be able to increase the heat since it won’t bubble over as easily.
Continue to cook until the liquid has been reduced by about half or even a little more. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Allow the liquid to completely cool, then carefully scoop out each orange slice with a slotted spoon or spatula. Let the syrup drip off each slice, then lay them flat on a flat surface, like a tray or cooling rack, lined with parchment paper**. Once all the slices are out of the syrup, cover them lightly with another sheet of parchment. The remaining liquid can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator to be used like any other syrup.
**Yes, you really want to use the parchment paper. The flat surface will allow the pieces to dry without dents in them that a rack would cause. Also, the parchment will let moisture evaporate, the orange slices will not stick and the parchment paper will not tear when they are removed.
Set the slices someplace where they can dry for several days. The amount of time you dry them is up to you. The longer they stay out, the firmer and less sticky they will get. I allowed mine to dry completely. I could easily break each slice into smaller pieces but they were still like a tender candy. Store your candied oranges in an air tight container in a cool, dry place.
These make excellent gifts, they can be cut into smaller pieces for putting into baked goods (hello, Christmas fruitcake!) or sprinkled over ice cream and yogurt, they are incredible drizzled with or dunked into chocolate, or just enjoyed as is!