Walking into The Young Demler Homestead, I felt some trepidation on a few fronts: what if I hated this house? And how uncomfortable would I feel as a guest in their home? I will confess that I’ve always been an itinerant hotel guest, begging my way out of staying at people’s homes. Yet on my first visit to Raleigh, NC to visit my niece, Carly, and her husband, John, there was no way to gracefully ask for the nearest Holiday Inn without insulting them. I knew I would have to make it work.
Upon entering through the front door, I followed John’s lead and took off my shoes. What struck me immediately was the warm and cozy feeling of the house—good feng shui or vibes (take your pick). My tour of the house revealed a comfy guest room right next to the one bathroom in the house. Good. At least I could get first dibs on its use…
Appropriately, the heart, stomach, and intestinal tract of the house (still thinking of that bathroom) was the kitchen: bright and airy despite its outdated appliances. It even had a center island! I envisioned Carly’s future cooking adventures here—perhaps with a curly-headed, flour-covered ankle biter at her feet (one can only wish).
Carly and John proved to be the most gracious of hosts: that night we dined on roast pork in a fruit-based glaze, barbequed to perfection by John. Apparently this is a time-tested recipe for him.*
In bed that night, I found a note on the nightstand assuring me I was sleeping on clean sheets. Would I get fresh towels each morning and turn-down service every night? A mint on my pillow?
I could get used to this.
In the morning I poked around the kitchen and saw evidence of wedding gifts already being put to good use: wine glasses, dramatic black plates, lovely table wear, and a Tiffany blue Kitchen Aid prominently displayed on the counter. But what was most impressive was the spice drawer. Here I found identical sized small jars of spices set neatly into a rack that allowed for easy viewing and use.
“Wow,” I thought. “I hope nobody gives them a big container of curry powder. It will throw the spice drawer into chaos.”
I live in San Diego on an acre-plus of landscaped property that looks like a park. At one end of the big lawn are several citrus trees: blood oranges, limes, lemons, tangerines, and a kumquat tree. They provide privacy from the street and more fruit than I can ever use. I’ve baked orange Bundt cakes. I’ve stuffed chickens with cut-up oranges. I’ve made lime ice cubes for sauces and cocktails, blood orange sorbet, and lemon ice cream with basil from my herb garden.
Every year I send Carly citrus which grows abundantly in my backyard. This year, having seen all her lovely mason jars on display, and noting that both she and John have sweet teeth (tooths?) I will make some orangettes—chocolate covered candied citrus peel—to send to them for display and eating. I bet they won’t last too long.
*Editor’s Note: As of this post’s publication, our fact checkers were still diligently working to ascertain the accuracy of this claim, and a plausible reason why there is a half-empty bottle of Braswell’s Select Cherry Balsamic Grilling Sauce in the fridge.
3 medium oranges
3 cups granulated sugar
10 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
Supreme the oranges: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and oranges can stand upright. Following the curve of each orange with your knife, cut away the peel and pith in vertical strips. Reserve interior fruit for another use.
Trim pieces of peel into more uniform, flat-edged, thin strips.
Blanch the peels to remove bitterness: Bring a medium-sized saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil. Blanch the peels for 2 minutes. Strain, rinsing peels with cold water. Fill saucepan with fresh water and bring to a boil a second time (or start two pots boiling at the beginning so the second is ready to go). Repeat blanch-and-strain process.
Prepare a simple syrup: In your now empty saucepan, combine sugar with 3 cups of water. Bring the syrup to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Place the peels in the saucepan, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the vapor is not escaping from under the lid. (I say this because I’ve seen it happen!)
Strain peels, and cool on cooling rack.
Meanwhile, heat chocolate chips over a double boiler (or, in a heatproof bowl placed atop a saucepan of simmering water). Stir to melt chocolate. When chocolate is fully melted, remove from heat. Drop candied orange peels in chocolate, a few at a time. Remove, shaking off excess chocolate. Let cool on parchment paper for at least an hour.
Store orangettes in fridge or freezer.