Happy New Year! It was a pleasure to welcome in the new year around the table with good friends. It warmed my spirit as much as the bowl of homemade chili warmed my belly. After Andrea’s homemade peppermint chocolates for dessert, I offered up the Clementines. And with it, a clever craft — Clementine Candles.
My friend Anne taught me how to make Clementine candles, a craft she learned around the table of her childhood home in Belgium. In the 15 years I have been sharing this craft with other friends, nobody has ever been familiar with it. Making candles out of a citrus rind is a beautiful thing. It combines three seasonal traditions — eating citrus and lighting candles...and making candles!
In the winter time, my family likes to eat oranges. It’s a sweet way to get your vitamin C. We buy a case of really wonderful Satsuma oranges. Satsumas are easy peel oranges and so sweet. My brother, Ron, makes the kids sing “Oh my darling, Clementine” before he gives them an orange. And I make candles out of the peels.
I will teach you to make Clementine Candles, so you can charm your friends with this special craft.
Start with a bowl of Clementines. Any easy peel variety will work. You might have to eat a lot of oranges.
Using a serated knife, cut around the middle of the orange skin without cutting the fruit. (I know the knife in the photo is not serated, just do as I say, not as she does, please..)
Work your finger around the orange, separating the fruit from the peel. Strip the membrane, if you will. (This birthing reference made Andrea grin.) It will still be hanging on at the base near the stem, where there is a membrane that goes through the center of the fruit between the sections. Get your finger all the way to this top area and separate the fruit from the membrane, rotating the orange to get all around it. Use the side with the stem; I think the membrane wick comes from the stem side.
See if you can pull off this half of the peel intact. Hopefully, you will have a membrane wick sticking up. If not, feed the orange to the fascinated onlookers around your table and try the other side…and peel another orange…be prepared to eat a lot of oranges while you are learning how to do this. Even if it works, do the other side or your orange too, because you can use it to make a top, or fireworks (read on…).
You might experiment with technique. I tried cutting the whole orange in half, , on BJ’s suggestion, so you can really get in there to pull the orange sections away from the wick. It worked well, except that I had a lump of squished orange instead of yummy orange sections to offer the onlookers. And the onlookers must be fed. So I prefer to stick with intact orange sections. It’s trickier, and it takes more oranges, but that’s not a bad thing.
OK, so now you have an orange peel bowl with a membrane wick sticking up. Pour oil into your orange candle bowl. Any kind of oil works. Don’t flood the wick, but it might help for the wick to have some oil on it. You might have to hold a flame to it for a minute until it lights, so a candle is handier than just a match.
And, tadah! Your own homemade oil candle. With a natural orange citrus scent.
For extra entertainment, you can put a top on your candle. Cut a circle for smoke to rise out the top. You can cut designs in the top and it will glow for you. And for fireworks, you can bend spare peels toward the flame—it squirts orange oil and causes a quick spark.
Precautions: You need to keep this candle attended. Really. You can add oil when it goes dry (often), and it will stay lit while you sit and chat around the table. Do not leave it alone. When it runs out of oil, or if you have a top on it, it will eventually blacken the peel.
Photos: by Ilene White Freedman except: Photo 3 by Andrea Goldstein and Photo 4 by Jonah Freedman
Satsuma oranges purchased at The Common Market in Frederick, Maryland.Ilene White Freedman operates an organic CSA farm with her husband in Frederick, Maryland. She blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at http://blog.houseinthewoods.com. For more about the farm, go to http://www.houseinthewoods.com