My mother made orange jelly with a little bit of orange peel earlier. It was so good. Then we used it to make orange chicken and, suddenly, we were in a desperate need for more jelly. She did give us another jar but I knew we needed to make our own. So I picked up two 4 pound bags of oranges. We’re getting towards the end of the season so they are not as cheap as they were but I still got them on a good deal.
Since I have decided that we are going to strive to waste as little as possible, this technique is a bit labor intensive but it wasn’t terrible. I started with soaking the oranges in vinegar water to remove anything funky on the peels. When I am in a hurry, I wash them with soapy water but this time, I was pickling asparagus first so I had time to soak them. To “peel” the oranges, I start with using a vegetable peeler. This allows me to get the zest with very little of the pith (in some cases no pith at all). I did learn that if I zested all the oranges first and then removed the pith, it went faster. To remove the pith, make a shallow cut around the center of the orange and use a spoon to separate the pith from the orange. It doesn’t always work but over 80% of the time and it made the work go fast. I did about 2/3 of my 8 pounds in about 45 minutes. Now because I was juicing the oranges, I didn’t get too worried about a little pith left behind. If I was going to can them, I’d clean them a bit more. I dried the pith and some of the peels.
For the rest of them, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to make candied peels. Since there is no pith on them, the work was easy. No extra prep work. Now I was doing a lot of the work simultaneously so while I was prepping the peels for candying, I juiced the oranges. The 8 pounds of oranges gave me about 7.5 cups of juice (I dried the remaining pulp). I opted to use Sure Jell and their recipe for orange marmalade to make my jelly (with a few moderations). Two batches of jelly needed 8 cups of juice and 11 cups of sugar.
I put my peels in a pot and used my measuring cup to add water. It took 4 cups of water to cover the peels. The candied peel recipe used a syrup that was 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. The peels cook in the syrup then the syrup becomes a by-product. I’m measuring in the sugar and thinking it was a ton of sugar I would be using that day (and did I really want to use 19 cups of sugar). So I had a thought – I’d just use the leftover syrup plus three cups of sugar (to equal the 11 cups). Yes there would be water but my juice wasn’t quite the needed 8 cups. I did realize that I may end up with a jelly that doesn’t set correctly. It takes two weeks for orange jelly to set so mine may never set to be true jelly but remember, we want this for sauces. And we don’t mind runny jelly since we ate my mom’s before it had set (oops). So back to the instructions.
I put the peels into the pot with 4 cups water and 8 cups syrup. The recipe called for cooking the syrup to 230 degrees. You can see my thermometer in the picture. I opted to not cook them that long because I was using the syrup for the jelly. I cooked them until they were tender and tasty. The syrup was clear and awesome. I wanted to eat it with a spoon. Once the peels were cooked, I poured them into a colander over a deep bowl. I let the peels drip over the pan while I added three cups of sugar to the warm syrup. Once the peels are cool – coat in sugar and they are ready for whatever you want. From there, I made the jelly according to the Sure Jell instructions. First heating the juice and the pectin, then adding the sugar. The end result was 9 pints of orangey goo that we are impatiently waiting to see if they will gel into jelly. I was tempted to just turn it into orange sauce from there but I would have never gone to bed. So 8 pounds of oranges gave us – dried peels, candied peels, pith powder, pulp powder and 9 pints of jelly. We’ve been snacking on the candied peels and I can’t wait to try them in some baked goods like brownies and gingerbread. Oh, I did throw some into mashed sweet potatoes – so good. Those 8 pounds of oranges will give us months of enjoyment.