I was milling about aimlessly in my happy place–the Whole Foods produce department–one not-so-recent morning and came upon some Seville oranges. I’d never actually seen them for sale before, so I scooped up a bagful and gleefully trotted them home… where they proceeded to languish in the bottom of the refrigerator for a month.

For whatever reason, our strategic marmalade supplies were quite robust at the time and I didn’t really feel up to a big adventure in canning–even in my big new kitchen, storage for home-canned goods and the accoutrements for processing them can be challenging. And, aside from marmalade, what else does one do with Seville oranges?

So, reproachfully they sat, hidden under celery, or parsley, or parsip as the weeks went by. But, when I got back from a vacation to find them–despite my neglect–still firm and fragrant, I was shamed into action. Remembering a David Lebovitz post about candying citron, I decided that orangettes would be the perfect use for my trove of forgotten oranges.

Despite the looks of horror I got when describing the process, producing orangettes is really quite easy and the end results definitely justify the effort. I mean, it does take a week, but the actual active time is minimal: cut up your peel, blanch it, and then simmer it in syrup for 10 min each day for 5 days. It may sound a little OCD, but it certainly isn’t difficult.

Since Lebovitz was candying one Etrog citron, which is mostly peel, I changed up the fruit-to-syrup ratio and reduced the cooking times throughout, but otherwise carried on as he did. I will say that, even though I cooked the bejeezus out of them in the final boil, I was unable to push them all the way to 240°F as directed. I suspect that my thermometer might be a liar. Nevertheless, the peels still came out just fine–with a jewel-like translucency and a sweetly tender bite chased by an almost minty echo of astringency.

 While they’re really quite tasty direct from the refrigerator as a snack or pitched into a cocktail as a special garnish, most of my orangettes are destined for slightly more ambitious applications. Some will be tossed in sugar or dipped in chocolate to complete their transformation into fancy confectionery and the rest will get ground up and made into calissons d’ Aix. (More on those allegedly plague-deflecting medieval French treats later.)

Even if you can’t find Seville oranges, any type of orange with a nice thick peel would work just fine–that means things like clementines or satsumas are out. Also, this would  be the time and place to spring for unwaxed organic produce if ever there was one.

Orangettes: Candied Orange Peel
Yield: ~12 oz peel
Adapted from David Lebovitz

~3.5 lbs oranges (to yield ~ 12oz peel)
pinch salt
2 1/4 c sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup
4 c water

Using a sharp knife, score the oranges in quarters and carefully remove the peel in four sections. (If you’re not using Seville oranges, reserve the flesh for something yummy… this salad, for example.) Slice the quartered peel into strips, about 4 or 5 per quarter.

Place in a medium stock pot with the salt and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook till the peel is translucent, about 40 min. Remove peel from pot and drain.

Rinse out pot and in it combine sugar, corn syrup, and 4 c water. Return to the stove and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, till the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Add the sliced peel, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 min. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next day, bring the pot back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit at room temperature for another 24 hours. Repeat twice, keeping a closer watch each day as the syrup reduces further.

Then, on the fifth day, bring the pot to a boil and continue to boil till the syrup reaches 240°F. (I could only get mine to 220°F and everything worked out.) Stir gently, but constantly. The syrup should not caramelize or brown at all. Remove pot from heat and, yes, cover and let sit for 24 hours. Drain on a rack for 8 hours and then toss in granulated sugar or wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. (If dipping in chocolate, be sure to return the strips to room temperature.)

Notes & Variations
I diced up all the broken strips of peel and mixed them into the remaining syrup: instant marmalade! Albeit one that needs to live in the fridge. Mr. T was so taken with this mixture, though, that it didn’t last all that long anyway. It seems that our strategic marmalade reserves weren’t QUITE as robust as I’d thought…