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Growing up Italian: My citrus is running naked !

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For some, winter months can be really “boring” when it comes to fruit.

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The colors of winter

Growing up in Perugia, in the heart of Italy, we did not have any fruit other than the one Nature could provide on its own, without manipulation. That meant the usual Winter melons, Apples and Pears.

We had a Fuyu persimmon tree, however, growing in the back yard. Ohh how much I loved the Vanilla-ish flavors of this winter treasure! My dad would pick them, and then let them mature in the attic, on top of a blanket spread on the floor, until their skin was a little wrinkly and the pulp would come apart, so sweet and…mushy. Yeah, the persimmon’s texture is not for every palate. I adore them.

At Christmas, it was Mandarins time. I still have sense memories of the scent from the oil in the Mandarins’ zests while peeling them. A staple on Christmas day.

Then, there were Oranges: Sicilian Oranges, mostly Tarocchi or Blood oranges  were a constant on our winter table.

My dad’s favorite was a salad with shaved fennel, sectioned oranges, black olives, and a light olive oil dressing.

Of all the citruses, the skins were what made me the happiest.  To this day, all my citruses are running “naked” around the house.

I either zest them, and use their skins in various applications, or candy the goodness out of it.

Candied peels keep indefinitely in the freezer. I, however, never seem to have the problem of “left overs”.  They disappear faster than I can make them.

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Candied Texas Grapefruit peel.

 

Candied Meyer lemon peel is my latest obsession, but the classic orange zests can be turned into a popular “Creamcicle” treat. You can even doll it up a notch with the addition of some finishing salt or toasted nuts.

Whatever zest you choose, these sweet and tart snacks will make you a citrus believer.

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Candied Orange skin, White chocolate and Vanilla salt. Sweet and Salty meets Tart. Oh yes!

It must be an Italian “thing” this one of candying the zests, because my friend Lorella who is from Florence, shared her recipe with me. With the exception of the honey, my recipe is pretty much the same. Honey, however, adds an extra sticky gooey-ness that is quite irresistible.

The process is not complicated, just a little time consuming and requires your constant vigilance or it will go south.

So, here you have it! Vitamin C never tasted this good!!

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Organic Oranges
  • 1 C sugar, granulated
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 C honey

Optional garnishes: finishing salt, chopped nuts

Directions:

Score the zest of the oranges in four sections. Peel the fruit leaving the 4 sections intact.

Now slice each section in vertical strips about 1/3″ wide

Place the strips in a pan and cover with cold water.

Bring the water to a boil, remove, strain the skins and rinse them with cold water.

Repeat the boiling step two more times, always starting with fresh cold water and always rinsing the zest so that the pith (the bitter part) will lose it’s bitterness.

Now bring a cup of water and a cup of sugar to a boil.

Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Add the zests that you have drained.

They will be noticeably softer than when you started.

Coat them with the syrup and keep cooking on low heat. It will take about 30 minutes before the syrup will be reduced and will have coated the zests. Stir often and  don’t leave the pan unattended.

Be careful not to brown the sugar or to caramelize the syrup. It will burn the zests that, in turn, will become too hard.

When there is no more syrup in the pan, with kitchen tongs, remove the peel and place it on a parchment paper to cool.

When it’s cool enough you can handle, place the sugar for coating in a bowl, and start tossing the strips with your hands.

The sugar will stick to the zest effortlessly. The skins are ready to dry overnight uncovered.

Oh, did I mention that they make a great addition to a cheese platter?

Or, you can incorporate some into your homemade fudge!

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Mangia, Enjoy!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My name is Rosa, and I have “a thing” for candied oranges 🙂

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