Day 3: Sunshine in a jar
On dreich and stormy December days, when the hours of daylight are curtailed, sunshine is in short supply. These are the days of the great winter darkness, and a gift that captures the warmth and life-giving rays of the sun is to be treasured. Unfortunately mythical heroes who went out to steal the sun usually came to a bad end. I could offer oranges as a substitute, but it got a bit sticky for the prince with his three oranges in the Italian fairy tale1. A jar of marmalade might be safer but it is a little early to find Seville oranges in the shops. So my gift on the third day of Christmas is a jar of candied peel.
I made my first batch of candied peel last year, when I refused to pay the equivalent of £65 per kilo for something that resembled fossilised, sweet, gravel. The homemade version produces a soft peel that is still a little al dente, bathed in a golden syrup that has the tang of citrus fruit and the essence of sunshine.
The peel can be dried and drenched in sugar, or better still dipped in dark chocolate. It is a wonderful addition to mincemeat and fruit cakes, and makes a perfect topping for sponge pudding or lemon drizzle cake. It is an indulgent addition to porridge or spooned on rye toast, covered with crowdie2, on a cold winter morning.
Like all good things, making candied peel requires time and love. As I can’t send you a jar, I have posted the recipe.
- The Love for Three Oranges or The Three Citrons is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile
- Crowdie is a traditional fresh Scottish curd cheese dating back to the Viking era. It has a soft, light texture with a slight citrus tang. Recommended to be eaten before a ceilidh to alleviate the effects of a dram too many.