Orange slices after 4 boilings, being candied with sugar and water.

Orange slices after 4 boilings, being candied with sugar and water.

I have read that candied citrus peels was a very popular confection of the 18th century. Certainly, there are quite a few recipes that call for candied peel but you can’t buy them . Because they were period candy, I decided to make them with what was left of about 9  navel oranges I had left from Old Christmas.I peeled all of the oranges and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few days. This way, I was able to cut much more of the white away without ripping the skin and it made this batch oh so much  than others I had made. The recipe for candying goes as follows:

9 oranges ( or less) , scrubbed, peeled into quarters

4 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 cup water

Remove as much of the pith as possible and cut into 1/4 inch strips. Put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil them 15 minutes, Drain and rinse. repeat this process 4 times as it removes the oils that make them bitter.

While you are doing this, mix 3 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water, bring this to a boil , then lower to medium and stir. This makes a simple syrup and is slightly thick.

After the last boil, add the rinsed skins to the syrup and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

In the 18th century, they let the slices steep in the syrup for a day or two so I took them out of the pot and put them in a non reactive crock for two days.

After two days, I drained the slices and spread them out of drying racks with parchment paper underneath to catch the drips. I laid waxed paper over the racks as the slices need to dry for 3 days total. On day two into the drying, while they were still tacky, I put a cup of sugar in a pan and rolled the slices in the sugar to cover them on both sides and let them dry for the final day. When they were dry, I put them in a sealed plastic container and they will keep for months.

I have made orange cookies with Triple Sec instead of vanilla and the candied peels chopped up in the food processor and they were delicious. I found an interesting recipe from the HISTORY IS SERVED site of Colonial Williamsburg that I would like to try. It’s called “TO MAKE ORANGE LOAVES” and is a different  take on candied peels.

A totally different approach to cake and fruit. Sugary and rich, this recipe reverses the practice of mixing candied fruit into cake, instead putting cake into candied fruit.

18th Century

Take your orange, and cut a round hole in the top, take out all the meat, and as much of the white as you can, without breaking the skin; then boil them in water till tender, shifting the water till it is not bitter, then take them up and wipe them dry; then take a pound of fine sugar, a quart of water (or in proportion to the oranges), boil it, and take off the scum as it rises; then put in your oranges, and let them boil a little, and let them lie a day or two in the syrup; take the yolks of two eggs, a quarter of a pint of cream (or more), beat them well together, then grate in two Naples biscuits, or white bread, a quarter of a pound of butter, and four spoonfuls of sack; mix it altogether till your butter is melted, then fill the oranges with it, and bake them in a slow oven as long as you would a custard, then stick on some citron, and fill them up with sack, butter and sugar grated over.

Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple,” 1796.

21st Century

  • 6 medium oranges
  • 1 lb. sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp. sherry
  • Sponge cakes or white bread — the equivalent of two large muffins in size
  • For topping: 3 oz. each of citron and candied orange peel and a sauce of 2 Tbsp. each of Sherry, melted butter and sugar heated and mixed together.
  1. Take your oranges and cut off the tops of each about one fifth the way down from the stem.
  2. Scoop out the inside of the orange as best you can including the white. If you use a small tea spoon and hold the orange in your palm, it will be easier to scrape it out.
  3. Boil the orange shells and lids in the water until tender but not folding or falling apart.
  4. Take them out, let them cool some and pat them dry gently with a cloth.
  5. Take half or more of the water the oranges were boiled in, add the sugar and bring to a boil in a medium stew pan.
  6. While it is boiling add the orange shells and lids and let them boil a few minutes.
  7. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool.
  8. Put the oranges and water in a covered container and set them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to saturate with the syrup, stirring them a couple of times a day.
  9. When they have saturated you are ready to fill them.
  10. In a mixing bowl, beat your eggs very well, add the cream, cake crumb, butter and sherry. Mix this together well with a spoon.
  11. Gently fill your orange shells with this “cake” mixture.
  12. Bake the oranges and their lids in a 350° oven for close to half an hour or more. They should not get dark brown on the outside, but a deeper orange color. The “cake” should bake as well.
  13. After coming from the oven, place the chopped citron and candied orange peel on top of each cake. After heating up the sherry, butter and sugar sauce spoon that over each cake to let it soak in. Send them to the table with lids on or next to them on the plate.

Ivan Day, noted expert wrote a wonderful article about the confectionary arts . It definitely bears reading.