Armenian Candied Bitter Orange Rind

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes about

    2 dozen

    “curls”

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

A couple of years ago, I drove with my Turkish friend Ayfer to a town called Vakif in the foothills of the Musa Dagh, a gorgeous, old-world citrus growing region just a few miles from the Mediterranean. No signs showed us the way. Ayfer had to stop frequently to ask directions. But when we finally arrived she became enormously excited, for Vakif is a pure Armenian Christian village, one of the very few still remaining in Turkey.

Our hostess was Surpuhi Karfun, a strong, slim, shy young woman in her early thirties, wife of the village leader. Her stucco house was comfortable—no telephone or running water, but everything was immaculate and beautifully kept. The kitchen was incredibly simple: a two-burner stove and a few aluminum pans and copper pots plated and lined with tin.

But such food! It was different from anything I’d ever eaten in Turkey: a blend of meat and bulgur (such as kêbeh) poached in a delicious stock enriched with an addition of cooked preserved yogurt; baby eggplant stuffed with bulgur and lamb flavored by mint and pomegranate molasses; a stew of lamb, chickpeas, and taro root; a green bean pilaf topped with fried onions; and tea served with delicious twirls of preserved bitter orange peels, called turunc.

After lunch we took a walk to the center of town, a square with benches sheltered by poplar trees. Here Ayfer talked politics with the men, while Surpuhi joined the women’s sewing circle.

The sky began to darken. It was getting time for us to leave. We made a quick visit to the stark stone church, center of village life, distributed our gifts, said our farewells, then drove back down through the hills.

Before leaving, Surpuhi gave me the recipe for the candied orange peel I so admired. Candied in a curled state, they’d been served on a piece of candy paper with a toothpick. She used the rinds of bitter oranges. I’ve substituted grapefruit peel, adding a little grapefruit and orange juice to the syrup. This confection isn’t quick to make, but is definitely worth the trouble and especially good with Turkish coffee or tea.

Ingredients

  • 7 organic bitter oranges or 3 or 4 grapefruits, washed and dried
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • cup bitter orange juice, or cup grapefruit juice and cup orange juice

Method

  1. Using a microplane zester or the fine side of a grater, remove all the colored zest from the bitter oranges or grapefruit; reserve for some other purpose.
  2. Cut the oranges into quarters or grapefruits into 6 sections. Remove the flesh and crush for juice. Use a thin-bladed knife to remove any excess white pith.
  3. Place the peels in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until soft enough for a finger to penetrate the skin, about 40 minutes for the orange, and 1 hour for the grapefruit. Drain and cut the peel into long strips about 74 inch wide. Soak the strips in a bowl of cold water for 3 days, changing the water once or twice each day. (This helps to remove the bitter taste.)
  4. Drain the peels, roll each into a tight curl, and use a long needle and thread to string the curls to make a garland. Press the curls close together to avoid unraveling and maintain the shape. Press the prepared curls between kitchen towels to express the moisture. Let dry on towels, covered with another towel, until very dry about 2 hours.
  5. Put the sugar, lemon juice, and 2⅓ cups cold water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until a light syrup is formed. Add the garland of peels and boil slowly, uncovered, until the syrup is thick enough to drop in a steady stream from a wooden spoon. Snip the thread and allow the rinds to float in the syrup.
  6. Remove from the heat; use a slotted spoon to transfer the peels to hot, dry, sterilized jars and pour the syrup over, leaving a 72-inch headspace. Seal with an airtight lid. Turn the jars upside down and allow to cool. Store in a dry, dark place until ready to serve. Keep the preserves in the refrigerator after opening. Serve each curl with a toothpick on an individual candy paper with a dribble of syrup.