Thrift and Frivolity

Our compost bin is beginning to emerge from under four feet of gradually melting snow. We abandoned our daily trip with a bowl of peels, stems, shells, and grounds sometime in January when we could no longer trudge over the piles of snow that filled our tiny back yard. There are almost always opportunities to make better use of food scraps but I don’t always take them. In a moment of thrift and frivolity, I began stashing orange peels in a jar in the fridge for several days until it was packed full. The thick flesh surrounding the juicy citrus piles up quickly and with a little time, some water, and sugar it can easily be transformed into sweet and tart bites.

You are turning trash into treasure when you make candy from compost. Candied orange peel isn’t something completely essential to my kitchen but frugality doesn’t have to be about eating stems and patching holes. In fact, I think saving scraps is a way to find greater abundance in what you already have.

The candied orange peel is tasty on its own or dipped in chocolate. Pop some in a little jar, tie on a ribbon and you’ve got a sweet unexpected gift. I’ve been thinking about chopping it up and tossing it into this olive oil cake instead of the chocolate or the rosemary. After boiling the peels to remove the bitterness, I had a pot of orange scented water. Once it cooled, I added some of it to my 50/50 vinegar water cleaning solution. Now that I know how to use up every bit of an orange, I’m looking for other ways to save and reuse.

Candied Orange Peel
Adapted from Put Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton
You can use any thick skinned citrus for this recipe, just make sure that when you cut the peels they are all about the same size.

Peels of 4-5 oranges (about 10 ounces)
3 1/2 cups of sugar plus 1 cup for rolling the candied peel in
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean (optional)

Cut the peels into 1/4 inch strips. Place the peels in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Strain the peels, cover with water again, bring to a boil and drain. Do this once more. This process softens the peels and removes the bitterness from the pith. After the third time, let the peels drain.

Put the 3 1/2 cups of sugar, one cup of water, and vanilla bean in a pot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the peels and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the peels until they are translucent, about one hour. 

Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet. When the peels are done simmering, remove them from the syrup and place them on the rack (you can save the syrup for flavoring seltzer or glazing cakes). Let them dry for several hours and then roll them in sugar to coat each peel. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for several weeks.

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