Yesterday, I decided it was time to refill my empty preserve jars. I ended up doing more than I had intended when I decided to use the entire fruit. I usually make strawberry, blueberry and raspberry preserves, but decided to mix it up a little. I made pineapple and orange preserves, candied orange peels and orange syrup. The kids used the orange syrup on their pancakes this morning and said it was delicious. Earlier this summer, I wanted to make preserves for the first time and couldn’t decide which recipe to use, because there are so many. I finally asked my Grandma how she makes hers. She told me that she just puts in about as much sugar as fruit and simmers it until it’s thick enough. You could definitely cut the sugar in half for a low sugar preserve, which I intend on slowly lowering the amount of sugar each time I make preserves, so the kids don’t notice the change.
I started by washing and drying four large, organic Valencia Oranges. I zested the top and bottom of each orange to dry out for my little parakeet that I love to spoil. Then, I quartered each orange, peeled the quarters and cut the zested tips off. I cut the remaining quartered peels into strips, tossed them in a pan, covered them with water and set them on the stove on high to boil. I cut the orange slices into small pieces, which ended up being about 4 cups of oranges. I put them in a pan with four cups of sugar, put the pan on the stove on medium-high heat to boil, then turned them down to medium to simmer. I used canned pineapple chunks for the pineapple preserves.
While the orange and pineapple preserves were simmering, I blanched the orange peels six times, because I like them only slightly bitter, then drained and set them aside. I then placed two cups of water and four cups of sugar into the pan and brought it to a boil over medium-high heat until it reaches the thread stage. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I looked up how to tell when the sugar mixture was at the thread stage. I placed a drop of the hot sugar mixture in a cup of cold water and when it made a soft thread of sugar in the water, instead of a cloud, I knew it was ready. I then placed the orange peels into the sugar mixture, brought it back to boil and then lowered it back to medium to simmer.
While I was waiting for the candied orange peels to become translucent, I periodically tested the orange preserves by placing a small amount onto a glass plate I had placed in the freezer. When the preserves felt like the right thickness after two minutes on the cold plate, I knew they were ready. It took about 40 minutes for the oranges, even though it usually only takes about 30 minutes when I make berry preserves. The time will vary based on the type of fruit or berries you use, that’s why I use the plate in the freezer test. I let the preserves cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before placed the finished preserves into hot preserve jars, that I had kept in a sink of hot water until the preserves were ready, secured the lids and set them aside to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.
I then crocheted little lid covers for my preserve jars, which you can purchase in a variety of colors and styles that I’ll be adding to my crochet website.
Next, I drained the orange peels, placed them on foil to cool for about 15 minutes, coated them with granulated sugar before laying them back on the foil to dry overnight, then think about how nice it would be to have a food dehydrator. I saved the orange sugar syrup in jars to put on pancakes later. Some people also use it to flavor their tea as a substitute for plain sugar.
After the zest and candied orange peels had completely dried, I placed them into canning jars for storage. The orange peels fit perfectly into a 32-ounce jar. Too bad they will only look pretty in the jar for about a day before the kids eat them all!