After spending a few days in Northern California we arrived home, toting a ten pound bag of Mandarin oranges. Andy carried them through airport security and we guarded them from the crush of carry-on luggage in the bin above us. These are sweet, freshly-picked California Mandarins; a gift from a very thoughtful new acquaintance. After enjoying many of these cute wee oranges out of hand, I decided to poach them in a syrup flavored with ginger and rosemary.
It turns out that the warm spice of ginger and the herbal note of rosemary was just what was needed to dress the oranges up for a dessert plate. A garnish of whipped cream, sweetened with a little honey, and a shower of finely chopped candied ginger completed the picture. Light, fresh, spicy, sweet, and pretty to look at; this is a simple dessert that you will want to keep in your files for the coming holiday season. I peeled the oranges with a sharp, flexible-blade knife, but you could just as easily peel them in the ordinary way. If you choose the latter, try your best to remove as much of the white pith from the oranges. They are most easily eaten if you slice the oranges crosswise on your plate. You will have plenty of syrup leftover. Use it to make another batch of poached oranges! It’s also good on yogurt and fruit, ice cream, or to sweeten your tea. Store the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Mandarin Oranges in Ginger-Rosemary Syrup
- 6 Mandarin or similar small oranges
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Zest of 1 orange , white pith removed
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root , peeled and sliced into thin pieces
- A sprig of fresh rosemary
- A pinch of kosher salt
- Fresh lemon juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Cointreau or a teaspoon of orange flower water
- Softly whipped cream , for garnish
- Finely diced candied ginger , for garnish
Peel the oranges with a sharp knife, or by hand, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Set aside. In a medium, wide saucepan which will hold the oranges in a single layer, mix the water, sugar, honey, citrus zests, ginger, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook the syrup for 10 minutes. It will be slightly thickened. Taste and remove the rosemary sprig if the flavor is to your liking (the herb flavor should be subtle).
Gently lower the oranges into the simmering syrup. Cook for 3 minutes, turning carefully halfway through. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Let the oranges soak in the syrup for 30 minutes, once again gently turning the fruit at the halfway point. Remove the oranges from the syrup and place in a serving dish. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
In the meantime, strain the syrup into a measuring cup, rinse out the saucepan, and return the pan to the burner. Add the syrup and simmer briskly for an additional 5 minutes, then strain into the measuring cup. Adjust the seasoning of the syrup with a tiny pinch of salt, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and some Cointreau or orange flower water. Chill until serving time.
To serve, place a whole orange on a dessert plate or shallow bowl, pour over some of the chilled syrup, dollop with whipped cream, and scatter some of the candied ginger over the top. Enjoy!