Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blood Orangettes

For the past month or two, I've been moping. Yes, I've been moping, because I continue to see post after post extolling the virtues and wonders of meyer lemons. Everyone but me seems to have some ready-made source of the wonderful things and are gallivanting around making delicious treats with them. Hmph. Evidently Oshkosh, WI doesn't really get into those high-falutin' citrus types. I began plotting my revenge - I would begin to make mouthwatering dishes with those Wisconsin staples - cheese! beer! sausage!

For some reason, they seemed to lack the same appeal as meyer lemons. So I began plotting again, but it all came to naught. None of the grocery stores in the surrounding area had the elusive fruits, and I was reduced to salivating over treats like preserved! meyer! lemons!, meyer! lemon! curd! tarts!, meyer! lemon! and! walnut! cake!, meyer! lemon! cake! roll!, and plum! meyer! lemon! jam! coffee! cake! And alas, none for me.

Imagine my astonishment then, when I walked into my local grocery store to find, nestled between apples (yawn) and oranges (double yawn) - BLOOD ORANGES! Now, this might not be a particularly exciting thing for anyone else, but finally! Finally I had a citrus that was slightly out of the ordinary, exceedingly tasty, and all mine! Plans began racing through my head as I picked out a half dozen of the beautiful fruits. Blood orange curd tarts! Preserved blood oranges! Blood orange and fennel salad!

In the end, I settled for the relatively simple candied blood orange peels. I've only used two so far, and so there are four more blood oranges just waiting. Ideas keep racing through my head, and I just have to settle on one or two more before my blood oranges are a tasty but distant memory.

Blood Orangettes (adapted from Deb's instructions at Smitten Kitchen)

Take two blood oranges and slice off the tops and bottoms. Score the peel in a couple places along the sides and peel it off, pith and all. Slice into 1/4" thick pieces. If you like, take the ends and cut circles out of them. Heck, use the very ends of the peel as well - it's what I did! They turn into cute little quarter-sized circles of candied goodness.

Get a pot of water boiling and toss all of the peels in. Let them blanch for about three minutes. Rinse them off and get another pot of water boiling (I changed the water out because it was an icky orange color and smelled strongly of pith). Blanch the peels for another three minutes. If you're worried that they'll be bitter, go ahead and repeat the process a third time. I didn't, but depending on how much pith you have and how bitter it is, it might be a good idea.

Prepare a simple syrup in a pot of 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Once the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is simmering, put all of the peels in. Get the whole thing going at a nice little simmer and put a lid on. That will keep it from reducing to the point where it boils off and you get burnt orange peel instead of candied orange peel. I let mine simmer away for between 1 and 1.5 hours. After about an hour, enough water had boiled off that they were basically suspended in a sticky, thick sugar syrup. I decided that it looked tasty and that if one hour made them look that good, an hour and a half would make them even better.

Strain the orange peels out of the syrup and let them dry on a rack for 8-10 hours. Toss them in granulated sugar or dip them in chocolate, let them finish drying or let the chocolate set, and enjoy!

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