Dried Orange Peel
In many of my recipes, you will see one of the ingredients called for is dried orange peel. Please don’t spend a lot of time looking to find this in a spice store. Dried orange peel is a homemade ingredient, and one that is very handy to keep around.
I first started drying orange peel when I was the chef at Campagne Restaurant because I noticed it was called for in many Provencal recipes. With a bit of research, I found that many home cooks in Provence constantly have a string of orange peel hanging in a south facing window along with summer herbs being dried for the winter. The uses for dried orange peel are many, but the classic use in a Daube, the slow simmered beef and red wine stew of Provence. It can also be used in creamy sweet dishes, such as creme anglais, ice cream or creme caramel, where it is typically added to the milk or cream when it is boiled. In savory dishes, it adds a subtle complexity, especially when paired with a filet of anchovy and walnuts. In sweet dishes, it adds a light orange flavor without the acidity of fresh zest or juice.
Since removing the peel doesn’t prevent the use of the meat of the orange, I try to make it a habit to make dried peel from every orange I have at home. Plus I think I like saving this peel because it gratifies my image of myself as a thrifty French cook who hates throwing out anything that can be used to improve my cooking.
Any orange can be used for dried peel, but I prefer organic oranges, as drying the peel tends to concentrate pesticides, etc on the exterior of the orange. In French Catalonia, the peel of bitter Sevilla oranges is used. Select oranges that have not been waxed or, of using waxed oranges, scrub under warm water to remove the wax.
- Using a small sharp knife or a French-style peeler (don't use an American potato peeler, as they remove the zest with too little of the pith), remove the orange zest from the oranges, preferably in one long strip. This can be accomplished by starting at the navel end of the orange and cutting in circular rings until reaching the other end.
- Spread the peels on a plate in a single layer. Place the plate in a sunny window until the peels are completely dry. This should take about 5-7 days. Alternatively, you can string the peels on a piece of trussing twine using a trussing needle and hang them in the window to dry.
- Store the dry peels in an airtight jar.