The tradition of using sugar to preserve foods is very old. Romans would create candied fruits using honey, and before that Arabs would serve candied fruits and flowers during banquets. Over the years, the recipe doesn't seem to have changed much. You can compare the recipe found in "The complete family-piece: and, country gentleman, and farmer's best guide" (available on the US National Library of Medicine's website) and that found in "The Art of Cooking in the Middle Ages" by Terence Scully and the overall premise is not that different: soak the fruit, remove, boil with water and sugar. The recipe below is from Martha Washington's "Booke of Sweetmeats".
The original recipe:
Take Civill orringes and pare them very thin. Then cut them in little pieves, & lay them in faire water a day & a night, & shift them evening and morning. Then boyle them, & shift them when the water is bitter into another water, & contiew till the water & boyling hath made them soft & they're bitterness be gon. Then dreyne ye water from them, & make a thin sirrup, in which boyle them a while in yt. Then dreyne ye sirrup from them, & boyle another sirrup to candy heigh, in wch put them. Then take them out & lay them on plats one by one. When they are dry, turne them & they are done.
Honestly there isn't really anything to change to make this vegan! In some cases you may need to be careful of the sugar you use, as some sugars contain bone char.
2 oranges (you could exclusively use oranges, but I also had lemons on hand)
Granulated sugar (get a large bag of it)
The oranges that I used were NOT "Civill" oranges. These are also known as "Bitter Oranges" and are, well, bitter. Because of this I didn't feel the need to repeat the draining and boiling process as often as is stated here.
1) Cut your fruit into segments and remove the flesh (I kept the flesh around to make jam with - recipe also available on my site). Cut the skin into whatever sizes segments you want
2) Put the fruit skin into a pan and cover with fresh cold water. You can leave them overnight, as the recipe specifies here, but I kind of cheated and instead just brought it to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes (I had seen it in other recipes and it turned out fine!). The recipe states to do this multiple times, but as the fruit I was using was not as bitter it only needed doing the once.
3) To make the "sirrup" I drained the water that the fruit had been boiling in into a measuring jug (using a sieve to catch any chunks). Then add 100g of sugar per 100ml of water and bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fruit and leave to simmer until your peels are starting to go translucent - this took around 35-40 minutes for me.
4) This is where I deviated from the recipe a bit more. It does say to repeat the sirrup process, but these fruits simply didn't need it. If you are using bitter oranges, I would suggest following the instructions a bit more closely.
5) Let them dry. I sped this up by putting my oven on the lowest possible setting and leaving them in there for around 40 minutes or so .
6) Once dry, take them out and coat them in sugar.
They are done! I chopped some of these up and put it in my gingerbread recipe, but I had so much left over that I think I may save them to decorate some sponge cakes. I also saved the syrup that was made, and I'll hopefully be making something akin to a lemon drizzle with that. I'm not going to lie, it kind of looks like pee...
These little sweetmeats not only make for a delicious snack, but they were also presented after a banquet throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Along with candied oranges and lemons you could also find ginger, pomegranets, and nuts (amongst other things). They were presented after the banquet to aid with digestion.
Candying fruit was also very popular because it meant being able to preserve your fruits to be consumed out of season. Candied orange was also well liked, because chefs could save the discarded orange peel that would normally be too tough (and nasty) to eat and make use of the whole fruit. I guess this is kind of the vegan equivalent of "using the whole cow"? I'm not surprised that it was such a popular method of preservation! Not only does the outcome taste great, but I now have two jars of syrup, candied fruit, AND I made jam with the fruit! Not a bit of that fruit went to waste!
If you make this recipe or have any other fun facts about candied fruit then pop a comment below!