I decided, now that I have a nice big kitchen, to make homemade fruitcake for the first time ever. I researched different recipes and went to the store full of optimism for my success. I ran into an unexpected wall: high fructose corn syrup (yech!). It seems that HFCS is now part of many of the candied and dried fruit mixes out there for easy fruitcaking. I’m a stubborn woman, and I refuse to bow to the HFCS mafia. So, I put aside the easy way and looked around some more. I ended up getting a container of dried figs and a box of golden raisins along with some hazelnuts. Ok that’s a start. There are so many different recipes for fruitcake from many parts of the world that I have no problem putting in what sounds good to me.
One thing I did want in it that HFCS gave me headaches on, though, was the candied citrus peels. They are so yummy and give fruitcake a big pop of flavor. I couldn’t find any without that disgusting stuff. Fortunately, Mrs Hill and her amazing cookbook have come to my rescue! There is in here a recipe for candied orange peel that is simple and uses readily available ingredients. After looking it over, I got out a couple oranges and checked my pantry for the rest of it. All was present and accounted for in my kitchen. So far, so good.
So this morning, once the fruit had warmed up, which makes it easier to peel, and having fortified myself with coffee, I started to work.
847. Candied Orange and Lemon Peel – Remove the pulp and inside skin; cut the peel in strips lengthwise; boil in clear water until tender. Make a syrup in the proportion of a half a pound of sugar to a pound of the peel, adding to the sugar as much water as will melt it. Put in the peel, and boil over a slow fire until the syrup candies; then take them out; strew powdered sugar over them, and set in the sun to dry; or, if the weather will not admit of this, dry them in a warm oven or stove. These will be very useful in making fruit cakes or puddings.
I decided that since I was only making enough candied peel for one cake, that a couple oranges should suffice. I spent a pleasant part of my morning thinly slicing orange peel and making my hands smell wonderful in the process. Once that was done, I put them in my smallest saucepan with enough water to cover them and let them boil for probably a good ten minutes or so. I know it was enough time to eat my toast and drink a cup of coffee. Then I used a Pyrex measuring cup and a strainer and poured out the peels and water. I decided in the spirit of not wasting anything that I am sure Mrs. Hill would approve to save the water in which the peels boiled to use as the liquid for the syrup. The water itself was a light orange and smelled great.
I let the peels and the water cool off for a while and relaxed. Then using the same saucepan, I measured in enough sugar to be in proportion to the peels. I added just enough of the orangepeel water to make it dissolve and started up the heat. (In an aside let me praise my gas stove. After seven long years of electric stove usage, having the fine flame control of a gas stove is one of the things that made doing this possible.) Once the liquid started to look clear and just a little bubbling along the edges, I added the peel and let it cook, keeping a close eye on it. I let it get very bubbly and almost foamy, my goal, from what I felt would work with the recipe, was to cook the syrup down until it was just enough to be coating the peels themselves and maybe a little more. So I kept that flame just high enough to keep the bubbling going along without making a mess of my stove. It took about 15 minutes. I wasn’t really watching the time too closely, as I was busy stirring the mixture and making sure everything stayed put. I lowered the heat a couple times so I could see the actual volume of liquid left. When there was just enough to coat the peels and the bottom of the pot, I turned off the flame and poured the results onto a cookie sheet covered with a silicon pad. (The silicon pad is another modern convenience I refuse to forswear. It makes cleanup of sticky stuff much easier, and I just don’t like washing dishes enough to be a stickler for doing it the old way.)
That was 9AM. It’s now 1PM and the peel has cooled. So I had to taste a couple to see if it was fit to put in a cake. Let me assure you that it was. It was so good I have had to stay busy to keep from eating it. It is just sweet enough with a POP of orange flavor that is out-of-this-world. Those peels are now little slivers of pure heaven. Thank you Mrs Hill! This is one for the win column.