Monday, October 17, 2011

Seville Orange Spoon Sweets

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 3

Few things make my heart happier than a bowl full of citrus fruit sitting on my kitchen bench.  Even though citrus grows incredibly well here in New Zealand, particularly in the North Island, there is something about the colours that just scream sunshine, even on a cloudy day, and the fragrance every time you pass by, that transports me to infinitely more exotic places.  And then, when that bowl of citrus fruit actually happens to be 6 kilos of Seville oranges, well I am transported directly to heaven.  Also often known as bitter oranges, and rightly so since they are far too sour to eat, these make hands-down the best marmalade.  They have a very short season, and you generally will not find them in the shops - leastwise not here in New Zealand.  However, if you are lucky enough to know someone who is in the know (thanks Mairi) you may be able to get your hands on some.  You are going to have to wait another year now to do that though, as that very short season I mentioned just finished last week.  I have a number of projects planned for these babies, which of course I will share with you, including marmalade, bitter orange curd, burnt orange ice cream, and a bitter orange sorbet.  I've also read that the juice of Seville oranges is often used for marinading meats in a variety of Caribbean cuisines - so a bag of these will be headed to the freezer to take out for juice during the year.

As I've been telling you over the last couple of weeks, the I Heart Cooking Clubs group is now cooking with the gorgeous Tessa Kiros, and our theme this week is From the Orchard.  Well I've got to tell you that whilst most of my friends over there are in the midst of autumn (fall to them), and no doubt enjoying an abundance of fruit hanging from the trees, here in New Zealand it is spring.  That means that you sure won't find much dangling from the branches here.  Right now, although strawberries are beginning to show up regularly at the market, fruit trees are laden with nothing more than promise, in the form of blossom.  So this box of Seville oranges, which appear briefly here from September through to mid-October, could not have arrived at a better time.

When I holidayed in Greece earlier this year, I found some wonderful little coffee shops in Athens to sit and while away an hour or two.  It was a common sight, in many of these coffee shops, to see huge jars on the counter full of beautiful fruits preserved in thick, sweet syrup:  cherries (both sweet and sour), figs, grapes, bergamot, quince, my favourite - bitter orange, and many more.  They are called "spoon sweets" and, as the name might suggest, they are usually served on a teaspoon alongside a good coffee and a glass of cold water.  You can also buy the spoon sweets in jars in most supermarkets there, and I developed a real liking for having the bitter orange for breakfast on top of some toasted bread and mizithra.  Needless to say, when I came across Tessa's recipe for Preserved Fruits in Sugar Syrup in the Falling Cloudberries book I couldn't wait to try it.

This was a really fun preserve to make - I would definitely do it again - and I can't wait to try some of the other fruits now as they come into season.  I am only sharing the instructions for doing the oranges here, but Tessa's book also includes recipes for cherries, green plums and figs.

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 1

Seville Orange Spoon Sweets Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Tessa Kuros in
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2kg bitter oranges
400g (14 oz) caster sugar
450 ml (15 fl oz) water

You will also need:
cotton thread
piece of baking paper

Wash the oranges well in warm water, and dry thoroughly.

Using a good peeler, peel off the skin of the oranges in long strips.  Try to leave behind as much of the white pith as you can - you want only the thin skin.  If you find that your peeler takes off too much of the pith, then just lay the strips on a board, pith side up, and remove with a sharp knife.  I peeled my strips from the top to the bottom of the oranges, and got 6-8 strips from each orange.  If you prefer you can go around the circumference, in which case you will end up with fewer but longer strips, which you will cut in half.

Put the strips of peel into a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the strips have softened and are pliable.  Remove from heat and drain.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Starting at one end, roll each strip of peel up quite tightly, and using a needle thread onto a length of cotton, as though you were making a necklace.  Keep the pieces close together - this helps the strips to stay in their little rolls while they are being boiled in the syrup.  Although a little fiddly, this is fun and really quite therapeutic - also all the oils that come out of the orange peels will make your hands feel and smell amazing.

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 2

Put the sugar and water into a pan, along with the strained juice from one of the oranges.  Stir constantly until the syrup comes to a boil, then carefully drop in the necklace of orange strips.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the surface with a circle of baking paper (to keep the necklace submerged in the syrup), and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Remove the "necklace" from the syrup to a clean bowl.  Allow to stand for a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then slide the orange rolls off the thread into a sterilised preserving jar.

The syrup will have thickened up a bit during the cooking, but you can keep simmering it for a little longer if you want it to thicken some more.  When you are happy with your syrup, pour it into the jar until the peels are just covered.

Once cool, refrigerate, and use within a month.

Kali orexi

By the way, once you've harvested the peel for this recipe, don't discard the rest of the oranges - they are precious.  Juice them and store the juice to use for marinades, sorbets, or dressings.  Alternatively, you can put the whole oranges into a bag and into the freezer, and then just pull them out when you want to juice one.

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.



  1. Ohh... something else to try the next time I go citrus crazy and buy way more oranges than I can eat!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yum, I love citrus too. Have never tried seville oranges, but I recently stumbled across some marvellous, properly sweet tangelos that I can't stop eating. They're quite good as a sweeter lemon juice too.

  3. So pretty and fun--I love these. But I especially love the idea of the bitter orange sweets on toast with mizithra you mentioned. I love mizithra and you just gave me a new use for it. ;-)

  4. These are Fabulous Sue, I just imagine you sitting there having the patience to do this, it's like folding plastic carrier bags ;0)

  5. I absolutely love the method for this - reminds me of threading up popcorn, for Christmas decorations. Sounds like a stunningly delicious recipe too.

  6. Oh my gosh, these are so cool! And I love the name spoon sweets :) I'm glad you were able to find some sort of "hanging fruit" to join in this week. I can just imagine these with mizithra. Sounds perfect!

  7. I've never seen bitter oranges up here in Canada. But sometimes I read about them in Cuban food. Sounds wonderful! I love the orangey necklace. What a great (and delicious) project!

  8. This is the most fun (and best smelling) necklace I've ever seen. Great job, Sue! Looking forward to your future orange projects.

  9. This is amazing! I have not seen Seville Oranges over here before, now I have to keep my eyes out for them! Thanks for sharing, Sue!

  10. I love these, I learned to make them years ago in Turkey, the mother of my son godfather made them and they were so amazing! I also published the recipe in a NZ Gardener Magazine a few years back, don't remember which issues, but maybe I will go back and look for it in my pile of mags. Thank you for the reminder, I wonder if I will find the time to make them this year...


  11. When my son and husband returned from Greece a couple of years ago after a choir trip, they raved about spoon sweets and wanted me to make some...I hadn't a clue what they were so I looked them up and they seemed a lot like fruit preserves to me...I kept saying that maybe I would try to make some but I never did. Now my son is in his first year of college, wouldn't it be fun to surprise him with this recipe? Maybe so, thanks for the inspiration! They are beautiful.

  12. Oh YUM. And how beautiful! This is just gorgeous.

  13. @Toby I think you'd love trying these, Toby - would probably work really well with those dragon fruit I saw you posted a while back :-)

  14. @Zo @ Two Spoons Hi Zo - I have been enjoying some of the beautiful tangelos around this season too. You could certainly use them for this recipe :-)

  15. @Deb in Hawaii The mizithra is also great with good apricot jam as well - you are probably lucky enough to be able to buy mizithra there. No such luck here - I have to make it myself, not that that is an arduous task :-)

  16. @peasepudding Alli, will you ever let me live the plastic bags down? I guess this was the perfect project for someone with a folding obsession :-)

  17. @hungryandfrozen Thanks Laura - yes, it was rather like threading popcorn - was lots of fun, and very delicious too :-)

  18. I can almost smell your marmelade !
    And I like the visual of those little rolls of orange peel...

  19. Sue- I really enjoyed reading through this post and reading about spoon sweets. I think this looks like such a fun and rewarding kitchen project. I bet the kitchen smells intoxicating while you are making these :)

  20. I'm not really a big fan of marmalade but this is the kind of orange jam that I could get behind!

  21. How beautiful! As soon as I have the time I would just love love love to make this!

  22. This is something new to me....Thanks for sharing...

  23. So wishing I had ordered more seville oranges!! Love these, but the one I cannot wait for is the burnt orange ice cream...sounds quite heavenly!!


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