As I mentioned last week, I’ve been building up quite a supply of grapefruit peels of late. Though I will buy lemons and limes throughout the year, for use in jams & preserves, savory dishes and cocktails, I wait for citrus season to roll around each winter to buy citrus for eating and preserving: grapefruits, oranges, exotic varieties. Typically, if I am using a lemon or a lime in a recipe, I’ll use both the zest and flesh or juice; if not, I am in the habit of stripping the zest from the fruit and freezing it for another use. But during citrus season, I build up a lot of citrus peels. And while I love recipes that use the entire fruit (check out this nice roundup, along with a recipe for homemade lemon marshmallows, from Autumn Makes & Does), I eat plenty of fruit out of hand, and there are recipes that just don’t need the bitterness of the white pith. But I can’t bring myself to actually throw the peels away: hence the big bowl of citrus peels, growing ever larger in my fridge.
Once I started thinking about what I could do with all of those citrus peels, and spent a little time researching the topic on the Web, I started feeling guilty that I’ve ever thrown out a peel. There is so much you can do with them! Literally dozens of uses, ranging from food and booze to household cleanser and bug repellant. Peruse the links below for lots of great ideas from around the Web: I may never throw out a citrus peel again!
Of note: I say it all the time, but it bears repeating: if you will be using citrus peel for any edible applications, and especially if you will be extracting the flavor with alcohol, it is best to source organic, sustainably grown, or foraged/wild fruit if you possibly can. In general, the peel of most conventionally-farmed fruits contains the largest concentration of pesticides, fungicides or other chemicals used in treating the fruit. Since citrus peels are not typically eaten in the US, data on pesticide load tends to concentrates on the flesh of the fruit, and is likely an unreliable indicator of pesticide load present in the peel.
What about you: have a great use for citrus peels? If so, I’d love to hear it: please share with us in comments.
Obviously, citrus zest can be used in many recipes, sweet & savory, be it baked goods, stir-fry or stew. But for those recipes where you need the flesh or juice, but not the zest, there are options. I generally strip the zest from lemons or limes, using my handy-dandy Microplane zester, and freeze in small Tupperware or in ice cube trays. Orange zest, however, I find does not keep its flavor on freezing: it will last for a few days in the fridge, but after that loses a lot of its oomph. But I love the ideas for zest and peel below: salt and sugar, butter and oil. Oh, my!
- Citrus salt from 101 Cookbooks
- Citrus sugar from Baking Bites
- Orange butter from Gilt Taste
- Meyer lemon olive oil from Buff Chickpea
- Lemon olive oil from Food.com
- Lemon lavender vinegar from a new bloom
- Dehyrated citrus slices from Well Preserved, dried peel or zest from About.com
- Candied grapefruit peel from Hitchhiking to Heaven and Martha Stewart
- Candied lemon peel from The Luna Cafe
- Homemade lemon extract (and thyme lemonade!) from Infinite Feast
- Add orange peels to brown sugar to keep it soft
- Add dried peels to tea (via Chiot’s Run) and/or use in your own tea mixes to enjoy or gift
- Freeze citrus peels, or quartered or halved whole fruit, then use later to flavor roasted chicken or braised meats (via What Julia Ate)
- Dry citrus rib rub from Hudson Valley Food Network
Most liquor infusions call for zest, or only the outside of the citrus peel, leaving behind the bitter white pith. I sometimes find I like the flavor & bite of a bit of bitter pith, plus, I am lazy, so I often just toss the whole peel into whatever I am infusing: vodka, vinegar, white wine. Go with your preference, or try an experiment: infuse two small batches of booze with lemon peel, pith on and pith off. See which you prefer. Also, the recipes you find online almost always call for vodka for infusions, Everclear or grain alcohol for making a liqueur. However, any alcohol can be infused (you should stick with 80-proof and above for liqueurs): how about lime-infused spiced rum? Mixed-citrus silver tequila? Orange-spiked brandy? Once you get the basic, simple concept, you’re limited only by imagination.
- A wealth of limoncello recipes from Punk Domestics
- Meyer limoncello from Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
- Pompelmocello from Hedonia (who tells me it was also incredible made with yuzu zest)
- Grapefruit & juniper bitters from Autumn Makes & Does
- Buddah’s Hand (citron) vodka from White on Rice Couple
- Lemon peel vodka from taylor takes a taste
- Cranberry-orange vodka from the Food Network
- Grapefruit tequila from Fine Cooking
- Vin de pamplemousse from Local Kitchen
I made citrus pectin recently, using the peels from 2 or 3 grapefruits. Based on Julia’s recipe, but slightly modified: I simply tossed my peels, unchopped, in a medium saucepan, covered them with filtered water, and brought to a boil. I let it simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, then removed from the heat and let it sit, covered, overnight. The next day I strained out the peel and froze the pectin in 1-cup portions. It’s fairly bitter in taste, and would not do for all types of preserves, but for anything that needs a bit of a flavor edge, not to mention a pectin boost, this is perfect.
- Citrus pectin from What Julia Ate
- Add slivered citrus zest to most any jam or preserve for a little texture & zing: try apple jelly with lemon & lavender (using lemon peels instead of whole lemon slices), sour cherry bam! punched up with lemon zest, orange zest in a cranberry chutney, or lime zest added to blackberry or raspberry jam
- Add chopped candied citrus peel to jams or preserves for another layer of texture and flavor
- Add a strip or two of citrus zest to pickle brine for flavor: see pattypan pickles
- Perk up homemade mustard with citrus zest: see habanero lime chipotle or winter lager mustards
Growing up in a drafty, 100+ year-old farmhouse in New England, the wood stove was the heart of the house come wintertime. My Mom always kept a cast iron kettle on top of the stove, full of water, orange peels, and a few whole cloves. The water added much-needed humidity to the winter air, while the orange peel and clove kept the air smelling fresh, clean, a bit spicy. Simple and effective, like many of the tips below.
- Dry citrus peels, then crumble for use in a sachet or potpourri
- Orange peels as kindling/fire starter from Apartment Therapy
- Homemade orange oil extract for cleaning from Two at the Farm
- Add homemade orange oil/extract to perfume homemade hand cream
- Add citrus zest to homemade body scrub: see avocado & citrus sea salt scrub (use finely grated citrus zest in place of essential oils), or Meyer lemon sea salt scrub from Hitchhiking to Heaven
- Spread orange peels throughout the garden or household plants to keep cats away; I’ve seen the same tip as a mixture of ground orange peel and coffee
- Freeze citrus peels throughout the season, then grind and use to dress vegetable beds to keep squash bugs (and other critters!) away (via Maggie’s Farm)
- Ground orange peel, lemon peel and lemon juice are all effective ant deterrents
- Toss orange peels down the garbage disposal, or keep a few at the bottom of your trash barrel, to freshen
- Microwave lemon peels, in a small bowl of water, in high for 1 minute, to deodorize the microwave
- Add citrus peels to a dishwasher run to deodorize the dishwasher (I’m going to try wedging some into the silverware tray under a small Weck jar)
- Grapefruit scouring scrub from Crunchy Betty
- Design your own biodegradable kitchenware (!), via David Lebovitz