Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Appalachian Recipes Recycling Orange Peels

I've been trying to make this recipe for Candied Orange Peels and write this blog post for what we would do to recycle our orange peels for weeks. These are things my mother, grandmothers and aunts used to do. Part of the NEVER waste anything mentality our people had.

The problem is her recipe for Candied Orange Peels calls for orange peels from 6 large oranges. When I was a child, with five siblings, we would have those orange peels in 15 minutes. But it's just my son and myself here. I forget to tell him to refrigerate his orange peels. I also forget and throw the peels in the compost by habit. If I wait until I remember to get enough peels would be after Christmas before you get this recipe.

Oranges were a big treat in Appalachia. We did not get oranges all through the year. It was mostly on holidays only. Many times getting oranges or exotic nuts in your stocking at Christmas was a VERY big deal. We don't think of oranges that way today as much.  When my mother was a child, it was always special to get a treat of oranges. To make it last they came up with ways to use those rare orange peels. From what we call potpourri, (and I will give you the ingredients to that) to orange peel candy, and even cleaning products, they were always resourceful and never wasteful.

My mother would use the wood cook stove to make this recipe and it was an aroma of Christmas and the holidays for sure. About Thanksgiving she would buy a big bag of oranges to put in the center place bowl on the table. The bowl was large and it would have apples, oranges, nuts, sometimes bananas and grapes, if times were really good. If you were hungry during the holidays, in between meals, that's where you were pointed to. She kept a pot by the side of the stove on the sink for the apple peels and orange peels. We were told to drop them in there.

She would either make orange peel candy, or boil them in water and strain the liquid out to use as a cleaner on the walls and cabinets, or put them in another pot on the stove for her mix of potpourri. BEST SMELL IN THE WORLD!!!! The apple peels she would sometimes make apple jelly. Wasn't our favorite, so she didn't make it much but later I might post some of her apple recipes.

Orange Peel Candy

Peels from 6 large oranges
1 tablespoon of salt
4 cups of water
3 cups of sugar
more hot water

Take the orange peels and cover peels with salt and water in a glass bowl; weigh it down with a plate. Let it stand overnight. Drain and rinse under cold water thoroughly. Cover peels with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain, add more cold water to cover and bring it to a boil, drain and rinse. Do this THREE times! This gets rid of the bitter taste, and makes the house smell awesome. ALSO this is the water she would save in a jug or bucket for cleaning. Cuts grease off well. When you drain peels the last time, let cool and cut orange peel into 1/4 inch strips. Momma used scissors to cut them into strips. 

Peels should measure 3 cups when you are finished. (If you don't get 3 cups, it's a cup of sugar for each cup of orange peel.) So you can make a small batch, it's just a lot of work for a little batch. 
Add sugar and hot water together (just enough to cover orange peels), to dissolve the sugar. Add the peels and stir. Cook slow until the orange peel is translucent or clear. Drain well in a colander; roll in granulated sugar and dry on a wire rack. She would let the peels dry for a day or so. She would then store her candied orange peel (what she could keep us out of) in a canning jar after it was dried.

Sometimes she would decorate a white cake with white icing with candied orange peel....OH MY Goodness, it was SO GOOD!!!  Once she covered them in chocolate....yep they didn't last long around her brood!

 Wood Stove Potpourri

This one is not measured. She would do this only on the holidays. We kept a pot of water or kettle on the wood/coal stove all the time. It's a dry heat and it would put moisture in the air. During the holidays though she would throw things in the pot to make it smell like Christmas. The fore runner of a potpourri pot.  I don't have measurements so you will just have to judge what smells good to you. About every other day she would throw it out, clean the pot and start over. When she gave up having a wood stove she would have it on the back burner of the modern day stove in a small pot she kept just for the purpose. I gave her a potpourri pot...she never used it. But her recipe works great in either potpourri pot or a small crock pot.  

She would put these items in the water:
Orange peels, apple peels, cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and  some pickling spice. If she didn't have pickling spice she would add whole cloves and allspice and nutmeg sometimes to it.  When we had these smells in the house, for us it was truly Christmas. 

I want to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. Blessings to you all.