#286 Candied Peel

From the odds and sods part of the last chapter of the book this one. I’ve never been particularly moved to make candied peel because I usually bake cakes on a whim and don’t really consider thinking ahead and making the chopped peel required for fruit cakes et cetera. This has all changed now I am in the United States of America. If you buy candied fruit for your cakes here they will not only contain citrus peel but also invariably a good proportion of glace cherries and pineapple. Now don’t get all tetchy America; I’m not dissing your candied fruits. Sheesh! In fact I prefer your version, but it’s just not English now, is it? And that simply will not do for the purposes of my blog.
This recipe uses the peel of two grapefruit or one ‘large, fine’ pomelo (you can get these at Asian supermarkets pretty easily) or four oranges. Slash the skins and remove the peel, pith and all. I suppose it’s a good way of using up the peel of citrus fruits instead of just throwing them away. I suppose you can follow this recipe and candy pretty much anything you like. Lemons would work. Or citrus slices. I once saw loads of whole candied fruits like plums and peaches and things like that for sale in Harrods at extortionate prices.
Back in Tudor times, people went crazy for candied fruits and it is during these times when recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding were borne. This was due to the sudden supply of sugar from sugar cane from the West Indies. A very popular dish at the time was sweet custard tart with candied fruits and candied fish! The fools. Plus, to have black teeth was very much the rage; this meant you could afford to plenty of sugar!
Once you have removed the peels, boil them, covered, for a good fifteen minutes. Drain them and repeat this process once, twice, or thrice again until the peel is tender and the bitterness is ‘at a palatable level’. Now drain them and let them cool.
 Now either leave them as they are or cut into strips. You can use the strips as an after dinner sweetmeat if you like. If so cut them into nice neat long rectangles if you want to do that. Dissolve ten ounces of white sugar in a quarter of a pint of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the peel. Boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the syrup has been absorbed. This takes around half an hour.
Now drain the peel in a metal sieve and then leave to cool, spread out on kitchen paper.
Keep them in an airtight tub and chop whenever required for cakes. You can roll them in some more sugar or dip them in melted chocolate to serve with coffee if you like.
#286 Candied Peel. I quite enjoyed making these – quite a therapeutic process; just right for a Sunday afternoon activity. Easy too – I was expecting it to be tricky. I was imagining a spluttering tub of boiling sugar and third degree burns, but it was all quite tame. I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I did have a taste and they were very, very good. Very sweet of course, but still had lots of zesty zing left in there and a million miles away from the bought stuff. What shall I candy next? Suggestions below please! 8/10.

#220 Carrots in 1599

These days we take the humble carrot for granted and treat it as a bog-standard, perhaps boring, veg to have with our meat and two veg – particularly beef. In the Sixteenth Century, however, things were obviously very different for us commoners and carrots were a blessing. Europe in 1599 was ravaged with bubonic plague and many people had to live off their own land. Wheat was not something you can grow in large enough amounts to sustain one’s own family and the extent of the poverty in those times meant few could afford it. Therefore people took to growing root vegetables – and the carrot was very popular as it was relatively easy to grow. There is a species of wild carrot that grows in Britain and Europe, but the cultivated carrot actually most likely arrived from Afghanistan.

Drama King: Billy-Bobs Shakespeare

Just so you know (and to put things into a historical perspective), in 1599 Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the first performance of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare went down well at the Globe Theatre in London and Oliver Cromwell – the future Lord Protector of England – was born.

A blast from the past? Carrots in 1599

For this entry, Jane recounts a section from the book Profitable Instructions for the Manuring, Sowing and planting of Kitchin Gardens by Richard Gardiner which was first published in 1499. He essentially makes suggestions as how to make good use of carrots: ‘carrots roots are boiled with [salted] beef…a few carrots do save one quarter of beef in the eating of whole beef…carrots of red colours are desired of many to make dainty salads…[they] make those pottage good, for the use of the common sort…carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’. Carrots also give ‘good nourishment to all people…therefore sow carrots in your gardens, and humbly praise God for them, as for a singular and great blessing’.

I particularly liked the phrase ‘carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’, so that is what I did to go with the jugged hare. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.

#220 Carrots in 1599. I’m not actually going to give a score for this as it’s not really a proper recipe (i.e. a total cop-out). However, I think it really highlights that we take much of our food for granted – not that there is anything wrong with that – and that people in other counties or times past view things in such a different and sometimes inspiring ways.