Dried citrus has been used for centuries as a decoration during the holidays (see my recent post!) and for libations too. I remember when I was at the fanciest, most elegant bar I’ve ever been to in Prague a few summers ago and I watched the bartenders make the coolest cocktails with the most interesting garnishes, and I recall many of them were thinly sliced dried fruit. (More about that experience here.)
I always found it so fascinating that citrus thrives in winter, like it’s a rebel fruit that says “no I won’t be at my peak in summer or fall like all of you other fruits, I’m gonna thrive and bloom in winter.”
We’re lucky in this modern age we can find citrus year round at the grocery stores. Citrus is nature’s way of saying in our northern hemisphere “yeah I know it’s dreary outside, but please enjoy these bright colors and flavors to get you through till spring and here, have some Vitamin C too.” Awww, thanks so much winter (fist bump).
I decided to try my hand at candied oranges and I wanted to add spices to them so it felt like I was tasting the flavors of the season. My spiced candied orange slices took two full days to dry. That’s the part I found frustrating because I promised my teenagers I would make them “nature’s candy!” and then they had to wait for it, and you know how teenagers are when it comes to being patient. They kept saying, “Hey Mom, when are they going to be ready” and I could only reply “Soon… I think.” These candied orange slices had to sit on my countertop for two full days to dry but they taste amazing so I forgive them.
And bonus, the process gave me orange infused simple syrup to use in a spiced citrus cocktail which is so so good. Both recipes below!
Who doesn’t love a great blend of sugar and spice? These candied oranges and cocktails offer both.
How to Make Candied Oranges:
Cut four seedless naval oranges into ¼” slices with a sharp paring knife.
Add to a pot filled with 6 cups of water, boil for 3 minutes to remove the bitterness from the orange pith. After 3 minutes, add slices to an ice bath to prevent further cooking.
Place slices on drying rack to drain water for ten minutes while you prepare simple syrup. (I didn’t have a large enough baking rack for all the orange slices so I just drained my oranges on my unused oven rack that I keep clean and stored in my pantry.)
In two separate pots (or two separate batches), combine 3 cups granulated sugar with 3 cups of water to create a simple syrup. Stir on medium until sugar melts and add two oranges worth of slices to each pot. Do not boil orange slices. Simmer on low for one full hour. Turn every fifteen minutes for even cooking and coating. After an hour, drain orange slices and place on rack to drain. I layered parchment paper under two layers of paper towels under my drying rack.
Save the orange infused simple syrup from your pot, this is golden nectar for cocktails or flavoring for pancakes, muffins, etc. Store in a glass container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Allow orange slices to dry on rack for a full 24 hours, turning every 6-8 hours. At the end of 24 hours, sprinkle with spiced sugar rim mixture.
To make a spiced sugar cocktail rimmer (and the coating for candied oranges) mix 1 ½ cup cane sugar with 1 heaping tbsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ allspice, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.
At the end of 48 hours, sprinkle with another layer of pure cane sugar, and enjoy this chewy and sweet candy from nature!
Store in a cool dry container between layers of parchment paper.
Now let’s take those candied oranges and that orange infused simple syrup and make a great cocktail!
Spiced Orange Cocktail
This recipe is for a tipsier 6 oz. cocktail since my glasses are a larger glass size.
First, prep your glass. Wipe the rim of the cocktail glass (martini or couche style) with a slice of orange to get it wet, then dip it in the spiced sugar rimmer mixture.
In a cocktail shaker over ice cubes, mix 3 oz. vodka with 1½ oz. Grand Marnier, 1 ½ oz. simple syrup, and generous fresh squeeze of orange.
Shake and pour, garnish with a candied orange slice, oh so yummy!
The citrus tastes so fresh and the spiced rimmer makes you feel like you’re tasting the season.