Monday, December 14, 2009
Countdown to Christmas with Skhye Moncrief
Hello and welcome to Day 14 of my Countdown to Christmas Blog! Today’s featured guest is Skhye Moncrief and she’s in the kitchen with Oliver. Here’s Skhye to share her secret recipe with us. Enjoy!
It's common knowledge that I'm certifiably geek. My affinity for information acquisition
spans in many directions, including that of the history of Christmas. Ten to 20 years ago, I began recording everything on TV ranging from travel shows to cooking. It's true. And my husband reads the Sunday comics. So, he cut the one out about the woman telling her husband (prostrate on the couch watching the boob tube beside his endless stacks of VHS tapes) that he would never live long enough to watch all the things he recorded. That small vignette of life at our home hung on our fridge for an eternity.
Well, I've watched all of my documentaries. :) When I was pregnant, we bought a DVD burner and I converted 550 hours of recorded tidbits to DVD from VHS. Let's just say reclaiming space summarizes the process. And it set me off on a whirlwind of writing all the new stories that came to me... Of course, I've recorded more since!
Anyway, Sharon's sworn Oliver would don one of those g-string butler outfits and strap on an apron to help me out today. I'm going to teach you about the origins of those orange slice candies (gum-drop texture slice shapes coated in powdered sugar).
This is not the moister semi-circle slices in various flavors... No. This is the kind my father-in-law ate when he was a kid back when penny candy was too expensive to purchase during the Great Depression. Anyway, I acquired this recipe during a documentary on colonial Christmas. Yep. Thank goodness I recorded that show!
Aside from saving the long curling peels from apples to use for cooking when food was scarce during winter, colonials faced an even greater challenge--vitamin C deficiency. What do we associate with that lovely affliction? Scurvy.
Revolutionary wars and European wars drove the need to fight scurvy with lime/lemon treatment on naval vessels. Let's face it. Drinking stagnant water and munching on protein-rich (bug-infested) crackers was the life of a sailor. UGH. Sorry. No matter how long I study anthropology I never can find myself fantasizing about munching on live bugs. Add dead bugs to that list please. I'm just not into ingesting things I never defined as food. Personal taboo, I know! Shoot me. But when facing bleeding gums and ulcers, I say eat orange peel. And that's just what the colonials did whether they intended to or not. The essential oils of citrus fruits are in the peel. Add the sugar content and vitamin C, and you've hit paydirt. Citrus was imported from overseas. It was seasonal. And it rotted. Using the rind of citrus fruit was a way to extend the use of the fruit through making something more easily stored.
ORANGE PEEL CANDY
You want to start with 1-2 cups of citrus rind (preferrably orange for this recipe).
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
cinnamon if you like it
How to prepare rind:
Buy a 3-5 pound bag. Peel the rind from the fruit with a potato peeler. Be careful NOT to lift the soft white bitter pith with the rind. If the pith comes off with the rind, you can boil some water in a pot with the rinds, checking the rinds frequently to see if the pith scraps off. Do not boil the rind very long. You'll cook the essential oils out of it. Remove the pith-free rind from the water ASAP. This is where your citrus flavor and odor come from! Eat the fruit you've peeled too. Of course, colonials would have eaten the fruit or cooked something with it afterward. Set prepared rind
Mix one cup of water and 2 cups of granulated sugar in a skillet over medium heat. You can add a teaspoon cinnamon if you like cinnamon. Once the sugar has melted, add the rind and cook the liquid down the water until it's a thick syrup, always watching and stirring on occasion. You want the rinds to became translucent a bit and to be coated with syrup. Lower the heat to low or simmer. The syrup will eventually begin to granulate again. That's when this process ends. So, keep stirring, watching, and waiting for the syrup to almost disappear. You're "preserving" the rind. After the liquid seems almost evaporated, you spoon the rinds onto wax paper or foil. You
don't want it sticking to cookie sheets. So, cover the surface you plan to cool your candy on... When it's cool, bag it. Voila, you've made colonial candy that can be eaten as is or chopped and added to breads or used for dessert toppers. I remember coating the rinds in a bit more granulated sugar because it was tacky like coated with sugar glue. ;) So, fear not a bit of coating...
This makes a truly interesting gift to give people. Just tell them it's orange candy. They'll never guess how you made it. After they eat a piece, tell them what it is. My fellow anthropology students in grad school loved the idea and process here! ~Skhye
Oliver saunters out, cheeks full, munching on candied orange peels. He pumps his biceps and steals a kiss from Skhye. With a wicked wink, she lickds the juice from his sweet lips.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!