I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

I have a rather involved recipe for you today, pheasants. Because I’m way too excited for Christmas to begin (Thanksgiving too!)  I’m planning so much for this little apartment…M and I are planning on cranberry and popcorn streamers for the tree, with tinsel and lights to hang around the halls and on the mantle. But until M is ready to break out the Christmas spirit, I’m sitting here looking for a recipe to soothe my Christmas fever. I absolutely had to look up a recipe that would remind me of Christmas before the lights have even gone up around our apartment.

So, in doing a little research for a supper party coming up (I’m so excited for that post!) I hit on the idea of chocolate and orange…I love orange flavors, and I hoped this would go well with the dessert recipe I’ve planned out. The idea, though, was that, because of the chemical composition of its aromatic and flavor compounds, orange peel tastes better with dark chocolate than plain orange juice or extract. Hm.

“What are we to do, Pheasant?” I asked. “Orange zest in a smooth chocolate dessert would be gross.”

“Candy the orange peels,” Pheasant replied simply. I gazed in amazement at the sheer, beautiful simplicity of the idea.

I excitedly babbled this to M, who looked up from her book, nodded, and went back to it. Oh well. Some of us just don’t understand. But, once she tastes these, I know she’ll be happy as a puppy in a new park.

Now, the peels themselves will be slightly bitter…I only rinsed mine three times, and they were a little strong for me. You might want to go with four or five times for the cold rinse, unless  you like a bite to the peels. I also only sugared half the batch, to see if we liked the taste of them plain…well, the verdict is in, and the verdict respectfully requests you roll them all in sugar. There’s a funny, almost green-potato-like aftertaste when  you don’t.

The "boiling stage"

These are actually really good steeped with tea. Just put one in the bottom of a cup before you pour in the boiling water, and the sweet, orange flavor will perfume the tea like something out of an Arabian dream.

Half-tempted, I entertained the idea of dipping the finished peels in dark chocolate…but I’ll saved candied citrus and chocolate for another post. Until then, here’s a most beautiful, delicious and easy rendition of candied orange peels. When you’re done, if you have leftover syrup, save it to flavor teas, both hot and cold!

Pheasant’s Candied Orange Peels

1 large, thick-skinned orange

2 1/4 c white sugar

3/4 c water

Cut the top off the orange and then score the skin four times, so that it’s separated into four segments. Peel these segments off and slice them thinly (I did about 1/8 inch thick, but I will go thinner next time.) Set them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil; when it does, pour it off, and refill it with water. Repeat as many times as you like. The fewer times you do, the sharper and more bitter the peels will be.

Once you’ve boiled them as much as you like, set them aside in a bowl. Add the water and sugar to the pot, stirring them with a whisk to combine. Bring it to a simmer and continue until you reach the thread stage (about ten minutes, for me.) For those of you who aren’t candy-savvy (like I wasn’t, until about two hours ago,)the thread stage is when you dip a spoon into the sugar, hold it over a bowl of cold water, and it runs off in a thread-like stream (thin, very thin.) It should still be soft once it cools in the water, like really thick glue.

Once it reaches this stage, keep it at a simmer and dump the orange peels into the sugar. Now, set your timer for 45 minutes and walk away.

Really. Go read a book, or play with your dog, or take a timed nap. Just don’t touch those peels.

When your timer goes off, check to make sure the peels look rather translucent and a bit like orange jelly. Are they? Good. Take them off, set them next to a small Tupperware of sugar and roll, one by one, before setting on a piece of Pam’d tin foil. Let them sit there for 4 hours or so, then put them back into the sugar, cover and store somewhere dark.

My beauties, resting on tin foil 🙂

Done! How easy was that? Seriously, you can buy boxes of these in the store for five bucks, or make them yourself for the cost of the orange, sugar and an hour’s time. Enjoy!

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