Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
I wanted to make some crystallised peel for my Christmas pudding. The bought stuff often looks so impossibly tragic, the sad remains of citrus long past and barely lamented. Making your own takes a little time but it’s very easy and fills the house with the most deliciously uplifting smell as it bubbles away in the sugar syrup. A Dyptique Oranger candle costs £38. The ingredients for your crystallised peel cost about £4. This ensures money left over for Christmas cocktails. You’re welcome.
As we’re peeling and slicing and simmering anyway, I thought I’d make more than I need for the pudding to transform into orangettes – little slices of candied peel dipped in melted dark chocolate. They make a great little treat to go with coffee after dinner. They’re also a good Christmas present if you can bear to give them away.
Crystallised citrus and orangettes
About 450g of peel, this will give you enough for the pudding and some left over to dip in chocolate, I used:
1 pink grapefruit
900g caster sugar
Granulated sugar for dredging
About 200g dark chocolate, 70% works well with the orange
Trim the top and bottom off the fruits with a sharp paring knife then go around the fruit cutting six incisions through the peel without piercing the flesh. Remove the segments of peel with your fingers. Cut away some of the pith – you still want a little cushion of the bitter white stuff so don’t cut all the way to the zest. Trim into strips about 5mm wide.
Put the strips into a non-reactive pan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, boil for a minute, then drain in a colander. Repeat twice - this will help to remove some of the bitterness and will make it easier for the strips to absorb the sugar later.
Rinse out the pan, add the caster sugar and 1.2l water. Warm gently, stirring, until the syrup is clear and the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil then add the citrus strips. Lower the heat a bit and simmer until they’re very soft and the pith is translucent - this will take about an hour or so. Remove from the heat and cool the strips in the pan. If you want a break at this point, cover and refrigerate before going onto the next stage. You can keep them in the fridge for several days until you’re ready to proceed.
With a slotted spoon, scoop out the strips and put them on a wire rack on a tray and let the excess syrup drip off. Pat with kitchen paper to make sure they’re not too sticky. At this point, reserve the 225g crystallised peel for the Christmas pudding – chop it quite coarsely. It will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.
Heap a layer of granulated sugar on a plate and use two forks to toss the remaining slices a few at a time in the sugar. Make sure they’re coated all over. Arrange on a clean wire rack and leave to dry out for three or four hours.
You can eat them as they are or dip them in melted dark chocolate. Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely-simmering water (you can also melt chocolate easily in a microwave, but I don’t have one so you’ll have to look elsewhere for instructions for that). Dip the slices of peel in the chocolate so it covers half of each slice. Shake gently to remove the excess chocolate and place on a piece of baking parchment to dry completely. Once dry, store in an airtight container in single layers divided by sheets of baking parchment. They will keep for a couple of weeks, though the chocolate will lose its gloss after a few days.