Holiday Baking Season Prep

 As mentioned on a number of occasions, my family likes to cook.  My wife and daughters (and my late son) specifically like to bake. Now, I can made bread or biscuits from scratch, and have made any number of pies over the years, but – it’s that whole Ricardian comparative advantage/best use thing – I  don’t usually do the Thanksgiving and Christmas baking, as I’m surrounded by better bakers. 

That being said, there is a lot of prep work in pie, tort, and Christmas pudding making. That role has fallen largely to me. 

Candied Orange Peel, simmering away. It’s what I’m working on at the moment. 

Prep starts at Halloween. We avoid the giant hollow orange pumpkins sold specifically to become decorations, and instead make our jack-o-lanterns out of more tasty varieties. My job is to help with the carving and then, as soon as the last trick-or-treater is off courting insulin shock, to bake the pumpkins until soft. The next morning, after they’ve cooled, I prep the pumpkin flesh for freezing, filling little baggies with ready-to-go pumpkin pie filling ingredient.

Pumpkin thawing in the sink. Two cups each, enough for one pie. Got 4 more in the freezer for Christmas.

My kids probably didn’t know pumpkin even came in cans until they left home. Which is as it should be.  

Today, I’m making candied orange peel, a key ingredient in my wife’s Christmas pudding (with brandy butter sauce. And she sets it on fire right before serving. It rocks.) Once, years ago, I was sent to the store to get baking supplies, and candied orange peels were on the list – and Safeway had none. I said to myself, I said: how hard can it be to just make some? Ya know? So I found a recipe or 90 on line, and tried one that didn’t sound too bad. I mixed it up – we had candied grapefruit peel (excellent – one wants to, and often does, eat it like candy), candied lemon peel, and lime peel (meh.) in addition to candied orange peel. 

Unfortunately, making candied citrus peel takes several hours, and you can’t really wander off, or you’ll get rock candy or orange peel soup. Make a few varieties, and you’ve burned much of a day, for one critical but minor ingredient. However, I’m now the candied peel guy in the house, it’s tradition, and far be it from me to buck tradition. 

Then there are the apple pies. One must first peel a boatload of apples. This task also largely entrusted to me. 

Apple pies in potentia, waiting to be most fully actualized. A couple of pies worth. 

A mere 3 hours later, I now have the orange (and a small batch of mineola) peel drying. 

Mineola peel. Because I had some lying around. They’re weird. I expected them to be pretty much indistinguishable from orange peel, but – no. Not sure I even like them. Probably be good in stuff, however.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll dust them with powdered sugar, pop them on ziplock bags and toss them in the freezer – good through next Easter’s pascha and kulich.  

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

7 thoughts on “Holiday Baking Season Prep”

  1. I’ve actually done the candied orange peel, and make Christmas pudding every year. (You’re behind schedule, tsk, tsk, it should have been aging for weeks in a cupboard by now. Or are you making it for next year’s pudding?) I made the candied peel once, but then found an online source so I’ve been buying it the last couple of years.

    Unfortunately I’m the only one in our group who really likes the aged-for-weeks-at-room-temperature pudding. Others will eat it but no one oohs or aahs over it. But I don’t let that stop me. I really love the idea of it, as well as the taste. Also the blue flames.

    Do you find the homemade pumpkin filling better than the canned stuff, or is it just a matter of principle?

    1. Yes, way behind on the Christmas pudding – it will be an Epiphany pudding this year. We all like it a lot. Brandy butter helps.

      I asked son and wife if they think fresh versus canned pumpkin pie is better – unanimous ‘yes’ – better texture (well, I say depends on the pumpkin) and more interesting taste. The irregularity is part of the charm – every one tastes different.

    1. Sure, but be aware that this is a nothing special recipe from a guy who hasn’t conducted anything like a review of the options. That said, they came out cery well.

      6 mid-sized oranges (or equivalent of most any citrus.)
      3 cups sugar
      1.5 cups water.

      big skillet
      big cooling rack, or a few small ones.

      1. wash oranges, and cut the tops and bottoms off them.
      2. Score the peel north/south about 5-6 times, peel off the sections.
      3. You now have 6 peeled oranges to snack on, and a pile of peels. Cut each peel section including the tops and bottoms into maybe 1.4″ strips – nothing fancy here, odd shapes don’t matter, just no big chunks.
      4. Place the strips of peel in the skillet, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
      5. Boil for a minute or so, drain, and repeat twice, In total, you will have boiled the peels three times – this removes bitterness, and three times is what it takes.
      6. In the skillet, mix 3 cups or sugar and 1.5 cups water, and whisk around until pretty much dissolved. Under medium heat, bring to a gentle boil, cook for 9 minutes.
      7. Add peel. The liquid should just cover them – some may stick up a bit, push them down with a spoon or something so they get coated.
      8. The only tricky part: cook at a gentle boil for at least 45 minutes, but more likely 60-75 minutes, until the peel gets that translucent look familiar from candied fruit. It won’t get quite as glassy as the store bought stuff, but will change noticeably from its raw state.
      9. put peels on a cooling rack, let them cool for a bit until you can easily handle them, then spread them out, and let them dry for at least 4-5 hours.
      10. I then get a ziplock bag or two, throw a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar in, and add the peel, shake it around to coat them, zip it up and put it in the freezer.

      too much cooking = rock candy; too little and they never dry and have a mushy texture. We have now plumbed the shallows of my knowledge on this topic.

      1. Oops – supposed to be 1/4” strips, not 1.4”. And don’t stir the peels when cooking them in the syrup as it may cause the sugar to crystallize (this is what the supposed experts say; I have not stirred based on their advice and so cannot confirm nor deny).

      2. This actually sounds a lot like making marmalade… maybe with a shade less sugar. 🙂 I’m looking forward to giving it a whirl and learning the differences between the two (having made many batches of marmalade in the past.)

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