How do I love you…

Last Saturday, when Rumpole took me to shop for fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, we spied a pile of Blood Oranges. Now, Blood Oranges are a spectacular seasonal treat, only available this time of year. They are my February obsession; I have to purchase 5 to 7 of them to hold, admire the variegated peel colours and to strip, cut open in different ways and assemble for a painted study. Then wolf them down, smacking the lips all the meanwhile. They are an acquired taste. This year’s selection, which we picked up, did not have the peculiar bitter sweet tang of previous years’. But their peel was so beautiful, that I decided to make a Valentine’s treat of candied orange peel for friends and family.

Mousey has never tasted candied orange peel before. So I am especially excited that my little labours will provide a first taste ecperience for her. She may not find the flavour exactly to her liking, but it will be a first exposure to a new taste sensation.

While Rumpole was off on Wednesday evening to his weekly guitar lesson, I carefully peeled foor blood oranges. The white spongy inner membrane required cutting off. None of my paring knives were sharp enough to be up for this task, so I had to sit patiently sharpening the blade of my favorite small knife to razor conditions. That in itself is a relaxing, meditative task – honing the blade, testing it, resharpening until the perfect cutting capability was achieved.

Once the knife was capable of slicing the peel from the pith with ease, I took off my glasses, took up one quarter peel at a time and, taking a deep centering breath, made tidy work of stripping each section of peel. Since I can see up close with one eye, it was fine and calming work, that suits well my degree of sightedness.

After all the work of separating pith from peel had ended, I sliced each peel into thin slivers. Then a liquor of supersaturated sugar solution is required to be made, for slowly simmering the peelings for about three hours, in order to reduce the sugar solution considerably. I kept a close eye on this process to ensure no burning could possibly occur. The pot on the stove smelled delicious. I know this as I frequently hung my head over to sniff the citrus scent evaporating from the batch. MMM!

At the conclusion of the simmering process, I drained the sugar-saturated peels and laid the slips onto parchment covered cookie- sheets. (They sat out overnight to dry and harden.)

At breakfast, the following morning, I dredged the bits of sugared peel in a bowl of sugar. Rumpole snagged a slip and munched it with his coffee. Then he took a second sliver and pronounced it “addictive”.

During the morning, Jessica and I hiked to the local grocery store to buy some chocolate bits, which when melted might coat the ends of each sliver of peel. I came home with the dog after our walk, energized, full of resolve to do a bang-up job of coating the orange bits with chocolate.

(Now I am not a chocolate-loving person, and don’t cook and bake with variations of cocoa and chocolate. Why, the one time I ordered Mole Chicken at the Mariachi Restaurant in Tucson, on New Year’s Eve, twelve years back, I was horrified at the taste of a spicy chocolate coating on that fowl which should never, in my opinion, be treated with extreme flavours. So need I add at this point that chocolate is not a staple in my pantry or a favoured taste?)

I nuked the half the chocolate in the microwave and it came out a mess of steaming pumice textured stuff. No way was that flowing and liquid enough to coat the ends of my bits of candied peel. (I am still soaking and chipping out the bowl from the mass of vulcanized chocolate, and that, three days later.)

That endeavour being a complete failure, I settled on the tried and true double boiler method of melting chocolate. Yay! It worked.
Just at the point where I was ready to start dipping, Flora arrived at my studio door. She breezed in, uncoated herself, snaffled a candied peel, then another and yet another. So I poured her a coffee to slow her down. Instructed her to wash and dry her hands and to start dipping the peels one after the other in the chocolate.
Every fifth one she popped into her mouth and mumbled, while chewing, “God, I’m going to have to work extra hard at my spin class this evening to work off all these calories! Slap my hands, if I take any more of these to eat.”

“Just keep dipping.” I ordered her.

Flora made short work of dipping half the peels. We figured some of my loved ones and friends may have allergies to chocolate, So they should be able to partake of naked peels. She popped the chocolate coated peels into the fridge, and we sat down to discuss Gallery business and ideas for bringing in the public in numbers, over another cup of coffee.

Before Flora left to go on to the rest of her late afternoon, we packaged up the naked peels, and then the cooled chocolate ones. One batch was to go to Amy and her sons; one batch was to serve as after Valentine Day’s dinner treat for Martha’s do tonight; a group of us to eat a fabulous meal prepared by Martha, after which we will look at her photos from her trip to India over Christmas.

Tomorrow Mousey, Glagow Girl and Renaissance Man are coming to our house for Valentine’s dinner. Mousey will get her first taste of the third package of candied orange peel. Glasgow Girl gets a reprieve from having to cook Sunday dinner after working 5 evenings this past week. And Renaissance Man has a taste treat which is a blast from the past.
No trite Hallmark cards for any of us. No over-packaged commercial chocolates or flowers from far away places. Just each other’s company for pleasure, and a tiny bit of labour from me to show they are important in my life.

And, as added bonus, I learned how to and not burn chocolate. This old dog continues to keep learning.

11 Responses to “How do I love you…”

  1. The Querulous Squirrel Says:

    They sound like yet another work of art. Apt that you finished them off in your studio. Creating paintings and rare delicacies for loved ones. A precious way to spend your time.

  2. James Steerforth Says:

    I also love blood oranges! In Germany a half-blood type is now available that is superb – called Tarocco.

    Thanks also for the instructions on how to make candied orange peels. I doubt that I’ll ever try myself, but I’d always wondered how orangeade and citronade are made.

    Hope you had a great family gettogether!

  3. Deborah Barlow Says:

    I too adore the blood oranges. The first time I saw them, in the market in Marseille when I was 18, was a moment I have never forgotten. And the name–so visceral and lush. Just reading about candied peals made me salivate.

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Those peels were so tasty! I’m glad I live next door to the exotic cook of Richmaple.

  5. ybonesy Says:

    I wish you lived close to me. I would love to learn your method of making candied peels. The separating pith and the slicing sound like an art, really.

    Oh, and we eat blood oranges like mad in this family. I have to say I prefer the sweeter taste of naval oranges, but my daughters and husband will take blood oranges over any other kind.

  6. suburbanlife Says:

    Squirrel – in my own small manner bringing a little pleasure to others is a huge one for me. G

    James – it’s good to know there are other Blood Orange aficionados out there in the world, but they are an acquired taste. making the candied peels is relatively easy; it’s just picky getting the pith off the peels – nothing a really sharp knife, some good music in the background, cannot make seem minimal. We did have great fun. Mousey at 21/2 is entertaining and full of hilarious observations. Her parents like to have some down tie with a glass of wine whilst we elders muck about with her. G

    Deborah – to discover a new flavour while young, or any age for that matter, is so enlivening. So, there you have Marseilles and Blood Oranges combined as a memory – one which is always at hand whenever you so desire. Candied peels, so simple, so delicious in tiny quantities. G

    LFB – you are the cook extraordinaire – i aspire to your delicious concoctions, and am so glad you live next door to spoil me. 🙂 G

    ybonesy – have your girls play candy cook one evening making some peels of all kinds, lemon, lime grapefruit and oranges. It is crazy easy and nice to do when one just wants to putz about. 4 and 1/2 cups of water, 2 and 1/4 cup of sugar. bring water and sugar together to a rolling boil, boil on medium for 5 minutes stirring. Lower heat to a low simmer, add slivered ( pith cut off) peels and cook uncovered for 2 -3 hours until the sugar solution is reduced to just cover the peels – Do not stir, during simmering. let cool at end, and drain little solution left over. Arrange peels on parchment covered cookie sheet and leave out overnight to dry.
    Next day, drench peels, a few at a time in sugar, let sit. melt chocolate and dip end in it, put in fridge to cool. Store in covered container. And that’s all. G

  7. onemoreoption Says:

    You appear to clearly love what you do. And that affection is clearly conveyed in your communications. It is so important to relish the things you love, even when you love them more than most.

    For a person like me, while I don’t crave blood oranges as much as you – I crave reading and sensing how much you enjoy them. I enjoy your sensory passion and the honesty coupled with it.

  8. suburbanlife Says:

    Onemoreoption – i do love my little life and little bits of experience. Thanks for your kind comment. G

  9. madsilence Says:

    A recent find: blood orange marmalade. Quite tasty!

  10. The Querulous Squirrel Says:

    Come find yourself and your candied orange peels hiding in my posted story “Tongue in Cheek.”

  11. dowhatyoulove Says:

    Those sound like a spectacular treat. I can almost taste them right now, you described them so well. I love chocolate, so I would have to try the chocolate dipped ones.

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