Once I got my mandarin orange sections dehydrating, I was left with a huge mound of peels. I’m not one to waste things … especially not delicious things like mandarin orange peels … so I had plans for those, too
I put half of them straight into the dehydrator, just torn into roughly quarter-sized pieces. I’ll keep them to break up in cups of tea, or I’ll use them to make an orange-flavored infusion for a recipe.
The other half of my mandarin peels were destined to be sugared. That takes a little more effort, but they’re really worth it!
I kept the peels in a bowl with a damp paper towel thrown over them as I worked, just to keep them from drying out too fast. I basically took each piece of peel, first flattened it with the white side down, and then I flipped it over and flattened it again, leaving the piece with the white pith up.
From there, I took one of my sharpest paring knives–the Rada super parer I bought at the Dutchman’s store–and with the blade turned flat, I carefully shaved all of the white pith off of the peel, separating it from the oily orange part and throwing it away. Once again, I love my Rada Knives!
I hand-cut the skinned/cleaned pieces into rough 1/4- to 1/2″ wide pieces, then dropped them into a small aluminum skillet. I had about two cups of peel when I got finished, so I put them into a stainless steel skillet and mixed them with an equal amount of sugar.
Then I added about a cup and a half of water, just enough to melt the sugar and get everything mixed together well before I turned the heat on underneath.
I started them out on medium heat, and just gradually let the heat come up on them, stirring them occasionally.
Once they started to boil, I kept an eye on them, stirring them about every 10-15 minutes to make sure that the sugar wasn’t crystalizing around the edges, and that all the pieces of peel got an equal chance to drink in its share of sugar and water.
When the syrup around the orange peel slices thickened to about the consistency of corn syrup, I took it off the heat.
At this point, I transferred the candied peels onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You could use a slotted spoon for this job, but I’ve found that chopsticks work best. They don’t transfer nearly the amount of syrup that a spoon will–even a slotted spoon–and the idea here is to leave as much syrup behind as you can … and just transfer the peels to the tray to dry.
Aren’t they a gorgeous color? The canned mandarins tasted better dried … but the advantage of doing fresh is … the opportunity for peel
Once I had all (well, as much as I could get out of the pan without turning the whole mess right back into sugar) that gorgeous sugared peel drying on the cookie sheet, I returned the syrup to the heat and then added an equal amount of corn syrup. I could have just poured this syrup off onto the same parchment paper and just let it dry into hard candy–and it will–but I decided I wanted to make a little orange syrup to have around, too. Adding the corn syrup to it, I kept stirring it the whole time, trying to make sure to melt all of the crystallized sugar that had formed while I was digging in the pot dragging out peel. You don’t want to cook it too much–else, it WILL make hard candy–so I just barely let it come up to a boil before I removed it from the heat and poured it into a jar.
I don’t know about you … but right about now … I either want pancakes or a pan of nice, hot biscuits for breakfast
As far as the crystallized peel goes, it’s great on any number of baked goods (like I topped my scones with some last week) … as well as a garnish to anything that pairs nicely with citrus: fish, chicken, etc. Or–if you’re like me and love the bite of orange mellowed by the smoothness of sugar–you can always simply munch them right from the jar. And I can’t wait to pour that syrup over something–A Dutch baby pancake? A Scone? A bowl of fresh fruit? Oatmeal even!–then maybe even top the same dish with a crispy sprinkle of candied peel. Mmmmmm!
OOps…addendum that I forgot to addendum! Once the sugared peels get dry enough to touch, I pick them off of the parchment paper and transfer them (in clumps, if I have to) to my dehydrator to finish them. They will dry eventually in room air, but here in damp Seattle … it could take a week or more … and with two dogs and a husband in my house who all shed like crazy … that could be problematic. I don’t like to leave food open like that for too long, so the dehydrator just helps them dry faster.