Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cara Caras, Meyers and Kumquats – Oh My!

Back in December, when a wide variety of citrus began showing up in the produce isle, I told myself to resist.  I had gone way, way overboard making citrus marmalades last year and still have quite a surplus.  I lectured myself that there was absolutely NO need for any more marmalade.  Despite the fact I was trying to talk myself out of even buying citrus, I ended up with three pounds of Cara Cara oranges, a pound of Meyer lemons and half of a pound of kumquats. 

No marmalade.  No marmalade.  No marmalade. 
Repeat the mantra.

The Meyer lemons and kumquats actually had purpose when I bought them.  I’d seen recipes for Preserved Lemons of the Maghreb and Salt & Pepper Preserved Kumquats from Hungry Tigress.  I think salt preserved citrus is an acquired taste, but one I developed quite readily - I love salt; I love citrus.  Making them couldn’t be easier:  quarter, seed, add salt and spices, cover, let sit in the sun and shake once a day.  Seven to ten days later you have salt preserved citrus. 

salt & pepper preserved kumquats and preserved lemons of the Maghreb
The Cara Caras are navel oranges with a lovely pink pulp.  There was no planning involved in buying them and they were the most difficult to resist making into marmalade.  Local Kitchen has a recipe for Cara Cara Chile Marmalada that sounds fabulous!  Instead though, I ended up eating them.  I did save all of the peels.  Candied peel is a project I’ve wanted to revisit. 

Last April I tried to candy the peels from some oranges and tangerines.  I failed miserably.  What I ended up with was a pot of burnt peels and sticky, thick syrup.  This is the first time I’ve attempted them since.  I’m happy to report more positive results.  Not walking away from boiling sugar syrup made a huge difference.
drying to slow way

The peels were boiled twice to remove some of the bitterness.  Most recipes I've read recommend three times, but personally I like some of the bitterness.  After that, I added four cups of water and two cups of sugar and brought it back to a boil for two to three minutes before removing them from the heat.  I let them sit overnight and repeated the boil and cool process over the next two days. 

drying the not-quite-as-slow way
On day three, I boiled them until they were almost translucent before letting them cool and removing them to a rack to dry.  Impatience got the better of me, however; and I chose to employ the dehydrator to speed up the process.  I dried them for the better part of a day at 95 degrees.

If I was going to serve these peels as a candy, I would coat them in granulated or turbinado sugar.  These, however, are going naked into the refrigerator for the next time I make pannetone.  I didn’t have any candied orange peel when I made pannetone for Christmas and it was missed.  I’m thinking I need to do some candied lemon peel, too.  And maybe grapefruit . . .

perfectly candied cara cara peels

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