For the last few years I have made it a tradition to offer everyone food gifts from my Tuscan Garden. All year around I search for different containers so each year my collections have different jars. I also always make different collections, this year I made flavoured sugars and salts. Flavoured sugar is brilliant to add a touch of fruit or other tastes to desserts, and you only need very little to give the flavour. Also it makes life easy so when a recipe calls for some zest, you use a tid bit of the flavoured sugar and don't have to wash, clean, zest or worry if you have the fruit at home. The zest is dried in the oven at very low temperature and then mixed with the sugar. The cinnamon and vanilla I obviously have to buy because I don't grow it. —Maria Teresa Jorge
1 collection of 6 flavoured 1/2 cup sugar each jar
This recipe is for 6 containers of 1/2 cup of sugar each. Bear in mind these are flavoured sugars which will have a strong flavour and are meant to be used as flavouring not to cook.
Pre-heat the oven to 200º F with rack in the midle position (if your oven has convection the zest dries better and quicker). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Choose organic fruit if possible. Wash the oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes and dry them very well.
Zest each of the fruits into different bowls - only the coloured part, do not use any of the pith at all. Put the zest on the tray seperating them. Spread the zest so it is in a fine layer to dry better. Put in the oven for 1 hour (with convection) or 1 1/2 hour normal oven. The zest should not colour at all and should be very dry.
Divide the 3 cups of sugar in 6 different bowls.
Fruit Zest Sugar: To each of the 4 bowls add the 4 different zests. Stir well and mix through with your hands to divide the zest in the sugar.
Cinnamon Sugar: Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder to the sugar and mix well with a whisk to divide the powder. Add the cinnamon pods.
Vanilla Sugar: Cut the vanilla bean in half and then open each half in the middle. Scrape the seeds out and add them to the sugar. Mix very well. Add the two halfs of the vanilla bean (which are still attached at the ends and rub with the sugar to extract as much seeds and flavour as you can.
Choose your containers and add each flavoured sugar and label it. The vanilla and cinnamon tend to get stuck in the middle of the sugar so fill the jar and add the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods at the end pressing them near the edge so you can see them.
Note: This is the proportion I use to have a strong flavour for each sugar. As I make about 18 gifts, I multiply this recipe by 18, so it's easy for me to keep track of the same flavour every time I remake the gifts.
Note 2: I make the sugars at least 1 month ahead so the flavour diffuses itself by Christmas.