Candied Citrus Peel Comparison: Modern vs. 18th Century
When I started down the candied citrus peel road I wanted to try a more modern version to compare to my Martha Washington "Orring Pills" I made in my previous post, "Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: To Candy Orring Pills." Click on the link to check it out if you haven't already!
So this post is about the second candied citrus peel I made, this time with lemon peel, and the verdict of which peel people seemed to like more. As well as some things I've learned about the process.
For the modern recipe I used the "Candied Orange Peel" recipe in The Unofficial Poldark Cookbook my husband got me for Christmas! Now I normally don't go for the unofficial versions of cookbooks, but I have read previous works by the two authors, Tricia Cohen and Larry Edwards, and I like their styles and how they present the information.
It also made me realize that I need to get my act together and actually watch the "Poldark" series! And I just heard a collective gasp from my fellow reenacting friends for that statement. I will get to it, I promise! Right after I finish "Outlander"...
So, this recipe was slightly different than the more intensive process that Martha Washington had for her candied orange peel. This process only took about an hour and half (not including the drying time). So I was able to do this one in between the boiling/straining/boiling process of Martha's orange peels.
I decided to do lemon because, well, I had them on hand. I also wanted to try a different citrus peel to see how I like it. So I took 3 lemons (because the recipe called for the peels of two oranges and I felt that was relatively the same amount) and cut the tops off and cut slits into the peel till I got to the flesh. This made it easier to peel, kinda. Really the lemon was much harder to peel than the orange this time. But, with some persistence, I was able to make it work.
This is when the recipe veered off a bit from my other project. Into 1 cup of water I put 1 tablespoon of salt and brought it to a boil. Then I added the lemon peels to be boiled for 15 minutes. I assumed this was to soften the rind and make it less bitter.
While that was going on I started the second part, which was dissolving three cups of sugar into three cups of water, hence making a thick syrup.
Once the peels had boiled for 15 minutes I strained them and rinsed them off under cool water until the salt was gone. The water had started to boil away leaving some of the peels with a salt crust on them. Not something I thought would be very tasty for the candy process.
Once they were rinsed I raised the syrup to a boil and then added the lemon peels. I then boiled them in the syrup for 45 minutes.
The interesting thing I didn't realize till after I made both recipes was that I had actually ended up boiling both peels in syrup for the same amount of time. It was just that with the orange peel I had three different syrups, but boiled them for 15 minutes in each of them. And that timing was just complete guess work. So maybe I had timed them right!
Once the lemon peel was boiled I strained it and put it into a bowl to be covered with a cup of sugar that was put to the side in the recipe.
The peels were nice and glossy when I took them out, and the sugar had started crystallizing on the sides of the pot so I knew they were well covered in thick syrup.
So I dumped the cup of sugar over them and used a spoon to make sure each one was coated. Then I laid them down on a cookie sheet that was lined with parchment.
In hindsight I should have probably only used half a cup of sugar. I found that I had alot of it left over once the peels were covered and the excess was shaken off.
The recipe now stated that they would need two days to fully dry out and then they could be stored in an air tight container. So I put a rack over them and put a tea towel over that and put them out of the way on the counter so they could dry out properly.
(These were under the blue towel with white stripes. The orange peels were under the white towel with blue stripes, easily accessible because I didn't know how long it would take for them to dry (which was two days!))
Two Days Later...
So, once uncovered and checked to make sure they were dry, this is what they looked like! They kind of reminded me of those sour gummy worms, which I love, so it made me very excited to try them!
So, with one for me and one for my "official taste tester" (my husband, who was just getting out of bed when I thrust this in his hand), we both took a bite to see how we liked it.
And, to be honest, it was a mixed reaction. I like the sour/sweet notes it had (again reminding me of the sour gummy worm) but I didn't like that it wasn't that tender. In fact I couldn't really chew through the outer part of the skin that well, so I ended up spitting it out. My husband wasn't a fan at all, both in taste and in texture. So not the promising start I had hoped for.
But I had one more test. The holiday party for my reenacting group was happening that evening and I decided to bring both the candied lemon peel and the candied orange peel to see what every one else thought and to decide which one was the winner!
So which one was it?
So, after an evening of taste testing, the final winner of the unofficial candied citrus peel competition is...
MARTHA WASHINGTON'S "CANDIED ORRING PILLS"!!!!
Congratulations Martha! The combination of soft texture and sweet orange flavor was a crowd favorite that night.
I think, with a little tweaking, the modern version could be better. I just think that 15 minutes of boiling in salt water wasn't long enough to make the peel as tender as the orange peels came out. So, if I try it again, I would probably have soaked them for 24 hours first before doing the recipe. And definitely less sugar with the outer coating.
All in all I had a great time making both of these recipes. And I found that once I understood the process, it actually is relatively simple, if not time consuming.
I would highly recommend anyone to try them sometime!