Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clementines Confites

A while back I stumbled upon the most riveting story of young love, gluttonous gourmandise, deep longing and a touching hint of guilt. It was the story of one woman's first experience with clementines confites.  The story was a wonderfully bittersweet ode to the syrupy sweet recipe to follow. I have been day dreaming about these perfect orange globes ever since...with only my mind's eye to fuel the obsession, having never tasted them before.  The blog story was my first encounter with the candied fruit.  So finally, just over two weeks ago, the perfect little citrus spheres started their long and sweet journey in my kitchen.

To make my life easier, and because I largely use grams and liters when I'm dying fabric at work, I stuck with metric measures.  The recipe detailed below is for one pound, or approximately 454 grams, of fruit.  Scale the recipe up or down accordingly...keeping the ratios of fruit, sugar, and honey the same.  I found the exact amount of water didn't matter so much as long as there was enough liquid to keep the fruit fully submerged. 

Need a hand with the math?  Shoot me a message...I'll gladly help you out.

Adapted from Lucy's recipe at Lucy's Kitchen Notebook

yields 1 lb/454 grams of candied joy

The Ingredients:
Day One
454 grams clementines
500 grams sugar
200 grams honey

Every Other Day Through 2 weeks
an additional 100 grams of sugar*

The Process:
Day One:
Pick the firmest, ripest fruit.  Scrub thoroughly to remove any dirt, waxes or impurities, leaving the skin completely intact.  With a long thin needle or a fine skewer, pierce each fruit deeply all over.  Liberally.  When you believe the fruit as been stabbed enough, pierce it another several dozen times. 

Select a large saucepan that will comfortably fit the fruit in a single layer.  Add the fruit and fill the saucepan with enough water to cover the fruit by 1 inch.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat ans simmer for 15-20 minutes.  The fruit should still be firm to the touch.  Using a tongs or slotted spoon, remove the fruit to a large, deep non-reactive (i.e. stainless steel or glass) bowl or jar. 

Add the 500 grams of sugar and 200 grams of honey to the liquid in the saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the syrup to a rolling boil.   Promptly remove from heat.  Pour the hot syrup over the clementines, weighing them down with a plate if necessary to keep them fully submerged.

Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit undistributed for two days.

Every Other Day:
Remove the clementines from the bowl and transfer the syrup to a saucepan.  Add 100 grams of sugar to the syrup.  Bring to a rolling boil, remove from heat, pour over the clementines loosely cover and let sit for another 2 days.  Repeat this process every 2 days,  adding 100 grams of sugar to the liquid each time for two weeks.  The liquid will thicken and reduce slightly with each addition.  After two weeks has passed, transfer the clementines to a jar cover with their syrup and store in a cool dry place.  They will keep for as long as a year, getting better with age.

*all in all approximately 1200 grams or 2.6 pounds of sugar will be needed per pound of fruit

The Review:
Anticipation can be a blessing and a curse.  Your mouth waters at the thought of biting into a concoction after lovingly tending to it over the course of several days.  Sometimes the anticipation is just enough to whet the appetite, and the final product is beyond the expectations...all of the time and energy spend making each bite all the more rewarding.

Sometimes the anticipation builds and build and builds until it reaches a crescendo that the end result just doesn't life up to.  No amount of justifying or reasoning can bring the dish up to level it failed to reach in your mind.  Each bite becomes bittersweet.  You want so badly to love it, after everything that went into it, but no...expectations had been built up too high...

So where did these sugared citrus fall?  Right in the middle.  The first bite yielded a surprising bit of tart from the peel...not quite the candied peel flavor I was expecting.  The flavor was excellent.  Subtle orange without being overly sweet, despite the vast amount of sugar.  The texture, oh the texture....

This is where the treat failed.  Perhaps is was the variety of clementines.  The market is sadly overrun every year with tiny orange beauties boasting seedless enjoyment, ease of peeling and even sweeter flavors.  As the fruits as thus "perfected" they become genetic shadows of what they had been.  The insides had pulled back from the peel and had almost a dry feel...the pulp and flesh having shriveled slightly allowing the membranes to dominate.  None of the bitterness usually found in the membranes and pith was present, but the texture was a surprising let down.

I do attribute that largely to the fruit.  More time should have been spend on selecting the heaviest, firmest and most fragrant of the bunch.  The batch should have been started almost immediately...the four days on the counter may have allowed them to dry out too much before their sugar bath began.

But where else did this recipe succeed?  In the syrup, hands down.  After filling the jars with enough syrup to cover the fruit I still had nearly a quart of the golden liquid left.  It had a wondrous honey like consistency and a divine, yet subtle citrus flavor.  So far the syrup has paired well stirred into jasmine tea in lieu of honey, drizzled on top of star fruit and kiwi to compliment their tartness and added to oatmeal for a touch of sweetness.

The uses seem endless...the basis for glazes and marinades for meats, in place of simple syrup in cocktails, to top off ice cream, or to lightly sweeten frosting, filling or whipped creams...perhaps just by the spoonful...

I plan on letting the orange gems age a while longer before I exact the next one from the jar.  But in the meantime a little drizzle of the that syrup...

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