Orange Drops

Orange Drops.JPG

You'll find this recipe in:
A new collection of receipts in confectionary
"Collected by Several Hands"
London, 1788

The Original Recipe:

To make ORANGE-DROPS.
TAKE about a Dozen Oranges, ſqueeze out the Juice boil the Rind very tender, cut out moſt of the white, and beat the yellow Rind very fine; Rub it through an Hair Sieve; and to a Pound of the Pulp put a Pound and a half of fine Sugar, ſifted thro an Hair Sieve; mix it well in, and put in the Juice 'till you make it thin enough to drop from a Tea-Spoon: Drop it on Glaſſes, and ſet it by the Fire; let it ſtand there about two Hours, and put it in a Stove; the next next day turn it: it will be dry in twenty-four Hours.

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Orange Drops are a candy made of a dehydrated purée containing orange peel, white sugar and a bit of orange juice. Depending on how you dehydrate them, Orange Drops can be crispy or soft like a jujube. If you love Candied Orange Peel, you'll probably enjoy these Orange Drops! They’re less sweet than Candied Orange Peel (probably because they don't have the white sugar coating found on candied peels), so expect a balanced sweet & sour citrus flavour.

Warning: Don't make the full recipe using 12 oranges unless you're interested in making hundreds of Orange Drops! Luckily, this is a recipe that can be very easily scaled up or down according to the number of oranges you'd like to use. Orange Drops can be prepared over days in steps, and will probably take more than one day if you factor in the time it will take to dehydrate the drops.

If you've had a look at the Orange Drop recipe from 1788 and are wondering about those strange-looking letters that appear where an 's' should be, give my To boil green peas post a read where I give a brief history about the use of the Long S in the English language.

My Recipe:

Step 1 – Prepare the Peels

  1. The historic recipe suggests using a dozen oranges, so that's what I went with. I used navel oranges, so their size may be part of the reason why this recipe makes so much.

  2. I only juiced 3 out of the 12 oranges and popped the rest of the peeled oranges in the fridge to be eaten later. I had over twice as much juice as I needed to moisten the drops.

  3. I added just enough water to the peels in a large pot to cover them, then let it simmer while covered for about an hour, until the peels were soft.

  4. Drain the peels, rinse them well and allow them to cool.

Step 2 – Make the Orange Drop Goo

The measurements using 12 oranges:
4 cups puréed orange peel = 2 lbs
6 cups white sugar = 3 lbs
1 cup orange juice

The ratio for this recipe is:
1 puréed peel : 1.5 white sugar
+ Just enough orange juice to moisten the sugar

  1. Once cool, put the orange peels in a blender or food processor. I managed to get the peels down to a chunky marmalade consistency, then I put them in the bowl.

  2. Add the white sugar: The historic recipe suggests a ratio of 1 lb peel purée to 1.5 lbs white sugar. I weighed everything, then measured it out in cups and it seems that white sugar and puréed orange peel weigh the same, because the ratio works out in both pounds and cups. If you don't have a kitchen scale, don't worry, just measure the ingredients out in cups!

  3. "put in the Juice 'till you make it thin enough to drop from a Tea-Spoon". I slowly added the orange juice until the sugar was incorporated.

  4. If your mush has chunks of peel in it like mine did, put the mush back into the blender again to blenderize it into a smoother goo.

Step 3 – Dehydrate

Oven dehydration:

Put parchment paper on cookie sheets and preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible (my oven's lowest temperature is 170 F or 75 C). Drop your orange peel goo onto the cookie sheets using a teaspoon and spatula.

I put in 3 cookie sheets containing about 100 Orange Drops and they took between 6.5 to 9 hours to dehydrate! I didn't move the trays around, so making this recipe ended up being a study in the nuances of my oven's temperature fluctuations.

When you think your Orange Drops might be fully dehydrated, allow them to cool then try peeling off the parchment paper. When they no longer break or bend and peel off in a solid piece, your drops are done! If they do break or bend, just mush them back together, put them back in the oven and they'll reattach themselves as they continue to dehydrate.

Dehydrator:

I tried dehydrating them in the oven first, but considering I had only used a fraction of my orange peel goop, I decided to borrow some dehydrators from the lovely people in my life*

I cut parchment paper to fit the trays, dropped out the drops and turned it on. Using a dehydrator is definitely more user-friendly than trying to dehydrate in the oven. I left it running in the background and after a day, more or less, the Orange Drops were done.

The difference? I think the dehydrator Orange Drops look prettier than the oven Orange drops. The candies dried out in the oven are flatter and crispier, and the dehydrator drops have a softer consistency similar to jujubes. They taste the same, though. I wouldn't say one is better than the other, though. I prefer the softer jujube dehydrator Orange Drops, but Steve thinks the crispy oven drops are better!

*A big thank you goes to Cindy, Anna and Helen for loaning me their dehydrators when I found myself lost under a wave of Orange Drop goo, and to Caroline who also generously offered me hers, although our paths never crossed in time to make the exchange.

 On the left, Oven, and to the right, Dehydrator

On the left, Oven, and to the right, Dehydrator

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