Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Do We Know When Citrus is Ready to Pick?

We often rely on color to let us know
when something is ready to eat.
Whether it’s a bright yellow banana or a perfectly brown piece of toast, we often rely on color to let us know when something is ready to eat. It’s usually a pretty good system, too. After all, few of us enjoy the flavor of a green peach or a blackened cookie.

But did you know that color is not necessarily a great indicator of the ripeness of a citrus fruit? In fact, it’s possible for an orange to be perfectly sweet and juicy inside, but a little green on its exterior. Sometimes, nights don’t get quite cool enough for citrus to develop a really orange color. At other times, a process called “regreening” makes ripe winter citrus turn a bit greenish again in the spring.

You shouldn’t ever worry about any hints of green on Florida citrus, though. (While our gift packages are carefully selected to be bright and beautiful, you may sometimes notice this on citrus at the store.) Why? The answer lies in the meticulous processes growers use to check for ripeness.

Unlike many other fruits, citrus doesn’t continue ripening once it’s picked. This means that growers had better be certain the fruit is in peak condition before removing it from the trees. To do so, they start tasting fruit early. When it seems like the fruit is just about ready, the grove manager will choose a sample of fruit for further testing, making sure to include fruit from different areas of the grove and all parts of the tree.

Hydrometer measuring the Brix rating
of apple wine.
Next, some juice is extracted to assess the fruit’s sweetness and level of acidity. It’s the right balance of these two factors that makes citrus delicious. The sweetness is tested using a special tool called a hydrometer, which gives a measurement called the Brix rating. This number tells the grower how much natural sugar is present in the fruit. Acid content is measured using a special chemical process that yields a number as well. The ratio of these two numbers determines how the fruit will taste.

Our citrus is always picked by hand.
If all systems are go, then the fruit is ready for picking. Our citrus is always picked by hand.  Then, of course, it can be packed and shipped fresh to you.

Once it’s off the tree, one very nice thing about ripe citrus is how well it keeps. Citrus will hold beautifully and in great condition in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for at least a month. You can also store it at room temperature if you plan to use it within four or five days.

But back to that green peach for a minute. Like me, I bet you’ve had the experience of buying certain types of fruit and waiting...and waiting...for sweetness and ripeness that just never arrived. Isn’t it nice to know that with citrus, the trees and the Florida sun have already finished the job?

Image Credits

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Are Oranges Really Orange?

Florida Oranges come in many different varieties, sizes, and colors.  But are any of the oranges we grow really the color orange? Are some oranges more “orange” than others?

We’ll need to start by answering the question: What exactly is the color “orange”?

The color orange also describes the secondary color created by mixing equal parts of red and yellow in the traditional Red-Yellow-Blue color model. This places the true color of orange right in the middle, containing no more red than yellow.

Now, what about the fruit? Where does that fall?

Well, there are many different varieties of oranges, and even oranges of the same varieties vary slightly in coloration not just from batch to batch, but from the bottom of each orange to the top.

Most oranges are very close to a color called “Orange Peel”.  There are exceptions of course, but Orange Peel would be the color that you typically think of when you think of Florida Oranges.

Let’s play a little game.  Can you identify the color Orange Peel?  The image below shows several colors on the orange spectrum.  Which one is the color Orange Peel?  Is it more yellow or more red than true orange?

For bonus points, see if you can identify these other colors as well:  Tangelo, Pumpkin, Carrot, Tangerine.

Please Note: Our little game only works if your computer screen does a good job displaying colors!  Older computer screens may not show these colors correctly.

Please share on Facebook and Twitter so others can take the test!

Surprisingly enough, carrots are actually closer to True Orange than your typical orange. Compare the different kinds of colors you see the next time you shop for oranges!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

How is Orange Blossom Honey Harvested?

I’ve always loved Orange Blossom Honey.  And it’s not just me, Orange Blossom Honey is generally considered one of the best honeys in the world.  It’s a lightly colored honey described as having a “well rounded” sweetness.  The sweetness is on the milder side and not overwhelming, which means it complements many different types of food.  In fact, I’ve heard beekeepers say that it’s tough to recommend a specific use for Orange Blossom Honey, because it goes so well with pretty much everything.

A beautiful orange blossom.

The best part of the Orange Blossom Honey is the aroma and subtle citrus flavor.  If you’ve ever been in Florida during the citrus bloom, the smell of orange blossom honey will transport you right back to springtime in Florida.

But how is Orange Blossom Honey harvested?  Can you only get it from beekeepers that live near orange groves?   Do the bees and the grove workers live together in harmony year round?

Hard working honey bee

The answer is actually quite surprising: Beekeepers load up all of their bees onto a truck and transport them to the orange groves for the four weeks that the orange blossoms are in bloom.  Bees are opportunistic foragers and usually gather pollen from a variety of plants, so beekeepers have to put the hives right in the middle of a big orange grove if they want the bees to stick to the orange blossoms.

Be careful beekeepers!

The beekeepers pack up the beehives around dusk when all of the foragers are back in the hive and load them onto trucks and trailers before transporting them to the orange groves.  Each beehive can hold up to 50,000 bees, so one truck will literally be carrying millions of bees.

Let’s just hope those beekeepers are safe drivers. A regular car accident is scary enough without a swarm of angry bees adding to the chaos. Just make sure that if you see a big truck leaving an orange grove in the spring, you get out of the way!

The delicious results of all that work.

Licensed Images

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Did you know that a Honeybell isn't an Orange?

We often have customers asking for Honeybell Oranges.  It’s a common misnomer, and I don’t usually correct the customer.

 When I do mentioned that Honeybells aren’t actually oranges, I’m always met with surprise and a little skepticism.

Your first guess might be that a Honeybell is a cross between an orange and some other type of citrus fruit and that I’m being a bit too particular by claiming that a Honeybell isn’t an orange.

That’s a good guess.  Anyone who’s familiar with citrus knows that there are many different citrus hybrids and new ones are being created all the time.  Biologists and growers use cross pollination to mix different types of citrus to experiment with new varieties.

So, are Honeybells a hybrid between an orange and another type of citrus? Nope!  Honeybells really aren’t oranges.

Honeybells are a type of Tangelo called the Minneola Tangelo.  A Tangelo is a hybrid between a tangerine and a grapefruit (or pomelo). More specifically, the Minneola Tangelo is a cross between a Duncan Grapefruit and a Dancy Tangerine.

So the Tangelo is not an orange, and it’s not a descendant of any orange variety.  It is an entirely different species that came from cross pollinating grapefruit and tangerines.  This helps to explain why the Honeybell has such a unique flavor -- very different from any orange that you’ve ever tried! Honeybells are a real treat; browse our selection and experience the incredible flavor of fresh Honeybells.


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Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaner Using Recycled Orange Peels!

As far as non-toxic all-purpose cleaners go, distilled vinegar is king. It’s almost as lethal to bacteria and mold as bleach without also being lethal to your children, yourself, and your pets. You can even spray it on your salad after you’re done cleaning for extra flavor!

What could possibly be better?!

The smell.

Vinegar has a strong smell that isn’t terrible, but it won’t win any awards. The good news is that it’s odorless when it dries. What about those of us who are used to the smells of a clean home, though? Is there any compromise without having to purchase expensive cleaners to keep your family safe?

There is! It turns out that adding the refreshing smell of your favorite citrus to a bottle of distilled vinegar is not only incredibly inexpensive, it’s fairly simple as well. Also, when the vinegar dries, your chosen scent will remain. I use this in my own home, and now I’m going to show you how to make a fresh batch for yours.


First, let’s talk about what you’ll need to bring to the party.

Distilled Vinegar This stuff is really inexpensive. I bought a gallon at my local grocery store for less than $5. You want to make sure that it says that it has 5% acidity on the jug. Any less than that, and I can’t vouch for its cleaning power.
A reasonably airtight container or two I used two ziplock 4-cup containers with screw-on lids. You can use mason jars, tupperware, or anything that seals tight. Try to get something with a wide mouth so the orange peels are easy to get out when you’re done.
Oranges It took me five navel oranges to fill both of my ziplock containers to the brim. Depending on the variety or size of your oranges, your mileage may vary. If you are running low on oranges, you can browse our great selection here
A spray bottle Any standard spray bottle will work for this purpose. I don’t recommend reusing old spray bottles, as they may still contain chemicals that could react negatively with vinegar.
1 Strainer I used a silicone strainer for my mixture. I’d recommend a finer, metal strainer, as they’ll let even less pulp through.
1 Funnel The neck of a spray bottle is narrow, and making a mess while preparing a cleaner is pretty backwards.

Step One 

Peel and enjoy some oranges. As I said before, I needed five Navel Oranges to do the job, so I got some hungry help and went to work. I personally found that peeling the oranges the messy way (by tearing off small chunks) allowed me to stuff more of the peel into the jars at the end. Try to leave as little of the albedo and pulp on the peel as possible. The more there is, the more thick the solution will become.

One orange down, and I'm just getting started.  Good thing I'm hungry!

Step Two

Fill your containers with the peels. Using medium-sized Navels, each of my 4-cup containers took two and a half oranges apiece.

One Orange’s worth. Smaller chunks take up less space in the jar, leaving room for more.

Two Oranges’ worth.  Almost full.  Still room for a little more.

Step Three

Use vinegar to fill the containers. Your containers should be so full that the vinegar is only filling in the small spaces in between. Also, be mindful of the fact that the orange peels will float. I was able to keep from overfilling my jars by pressing on the oranges with my free hand while I poured the vinegar.

Getting my vinegar ready after pushing the peels down below the lid of the jar.

Step Four

Seal the containers. It takes at least two weeks for the vinegar to absorb the full aroma from the orange peels. You can date the containers if you like. I personally just set a calendar appointment on my phone to remind me when they were ready.

Full right to the top!  Let’s take it outside to get a better look at how much we’re working with.

Notice how even after cramming as much as I could into the jar, the peels still are buoyant enough to have room at the bottom.

Step Five

Wait at least two weeks. Feel free to wait longer, though. It won’t hurt the final product. I recommend taking a long vacation during this time. You could even come down to Florida and visit our groves!

Step Six

Transfer your new, sweet-smelling cleaner into your spray bottle!

After two weeks, it’s ready. Your oranges should appear pallid. Don’t worry, though. Everything the oranges have lost, your cleaner has gained. Notice how the jar on the right is darker. I left a bit of pulp on the peels to see the effect, myself. The solution was a little thicker as well, but it was still thin enough to keep my sprayer from gunking up.

I picked up a generic 32oz. sprayer for this task. For four cups’ worth, this is ideal.

Now for the hard part, getting the cleaner into the bottle.

Time to affix your funnel.

If you aren’t holding a camera, you don’t have to turn this into the balancing act that I did. It’s much easier with two hands. You can just hold the strainer over the funnel.

Pour carefully.

Halfway there. Time for the second jar.

Feel free to dump the peels into the strainer to get every last drop. They won’t hurt anything.

All done and ready to take on the kitchen!


Step 1 Peel your oranges, tearing them into small chunks.
Step 2 Fill your jar with orange peels all the way to the top.
Step 3 Pour the distilled vinegar into the jar.
Step 4 Seal the jars and date them.
Step 5 Wait at least two weeks.
Step 6 Transfer them to a spray bottle!

And you’re done!

Go ahead and have fun with this process, though. Add other scents and fresh-smelling fruits and herbs, such as tangerines or mint leaves, to find the combination you like best. In fact, when I first tried this, I used cinnamon with the oranges. The cinnamon smell overpowered everything else. I quickly realized that cinnamon is a great scent in small doses. I didn’t enjoy having so much of it everywhere in my house.

Nothing I’ve tried yet so far smells as refreshing as oranges, though.


Feel free to use this cleaner almost anywhere in your house. Just be sure not to use it on granite. Granite is very sensitive to acid-based cleaners, such as vinegar and ammonia. Also, never mix vinegar with bleach. Bleach reacts with acids by releasing toxic chlorine gas.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Just How Many Navel Orange Trees Are There?

Navel Oranges are by far the most common oranges to eat out of hand in the United States. That must mean there are a lot of Navel Orange trees, right? Can you guess how many are in America? How about worldwide?

The answer: One. There is only one true Navel Orange tree in the entire world! There are plenty of groves all over Florida with hundreds or thousands of trees growing Navel Oranges, but none of those are true Navel Orange trees.  Those trees are a different kind of citrus tree with Navel Orange branches attached to them.  All of those Navel Orange branches come from the same, amazing 200-year-old tree.

So, how did this happen?  Around 1810, a single tree in Brazil experienced the Navel Orange mutation. This mutation not only resulted in the signature “navel,” which is actually a second, underdeveloped orange that shares the same peel, but also made the fruit seedless.

A single, seedless orange tree in Brazil was lucky enough to produce the Navel Oranges we love today.
Note: the above image is not the original Navel Orange tree.

If you’ve ever had a Navel Orange, you can understand why the farmers had to find a way to plant more of these trees. However, the mutation was completely sterile -- there were no seeds for the farmers to replant. How can you plant new orange trees without seeds? Well, you can’t.

They decided to try grafting. Grafting is the simple, ancient technique of joining two related plants together.  In the case of orange trees, the grower will take the branch from one tree and carefully attach it to another tree. If the trees are similar enough, the new branch will live. Over time, that branch will grow and bear more and more of it’s own fruit.

Various types of grafts.

So with a little help from some clever farmers, Navel Orange branches migrated their way to the sunniest places around the world.

It’s worth noting that there have been other Navel Orange mutations while on the branch, resulting in different Navel Orange varieties. Most of them are not grown in large quantities.  You can check out this list of Navel Orange Varieties if you want to read more about each variety.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Religion and Citrus: A Surprising History

"Court of Oranges" at the Seville Cathedral in Spain.
There’s something about the aroma, color and flavor of fresh citrus that’s intoxicating, exotic, and yes, some would say almost mystical. I’m certainly not the first person to think so. A dizzying variety of citrus is grown around the globe, and over time, a number of these fruits have taken on cultural or religious importance.

In fact, citrus has been used in ritual for hundreds and even thousands of years. Surprisingly, botanists aren’t quite sure where the genus originated—it may have been Australia, or it might have been Southeast Asia. But wherever the original plants came from, their appealing qualities meant that the trees and their fruits quickly spread across travel routes, making their way through Asia and to the Middle East, Europe, and of course, the Americas, where Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez is believed to have planted the first Floridian orange trees in the mid-1500s.

The etrog fruit used during Sukkot.
One ritual use of citrus that you may not have heard of involves a fruit known in the Jewish tradition as an etrog. This citrus fruit, which looks rather like a long, bumpy-skinned lemon, is a type of citron. The etrog has long been a part of Jewish religious observance, and is considered to be the “beautiful fruit of a tree” referred to in a key passage of the Torah. During Sukkot, a holiday celebrated in the fall, observant Jews recite a blessing over an etrog, date palm fronds, and willow and myrtle tree branches. A ritual etrog should be unblemished and grown from seed (as opposed to grafted, like most citrus). Perfect, beautiful specimens can fetch a high price, and the etrog may be kept in a special, elaborate case. While etrog is edible, it is mostly rind.

Buddha's hand
Another fascinating citrus fruit used in religious ritual is the amazing Buddha’s hand. With its many long “fingers,” this fruit looks like no other citrus you’ve ever seen. Buddha’s Hand is often displayed on altars in Buddhist homes and represents good luck and good fortune. Its “fingers” are said to symbolize the hands of the praying Buddha, with a more closed “finger” posture considered preferable. The Buddha’s hand is also almost all rind, but it’s highly fragrant, and the zest is said to be delicious. As with the etrog, this fruit is a type of citron. Interestingly, the citron is also considered a sacred fruit in the Hindu religion, where it can be seen depicted in statues of various gods and goddesses.

Yuzu floating in a hot bath.
A traditional kagami mochi.
In Japan, the winter solstice (December 21) has long been traditionally marked using citrus. The yuzu, a very cold-hardy Asian citrus that is somewhat similar to a grapefruit, is used in ceremonial hot baths at this time, where it releases its heady fragrance and symbolizes the ability to thrive through the winter. The bath is also thought to be therapeutic. Japanese New Year celebrations also incorporate an ancient Asian citrus variety called the daidai, which is a type of bitter orange. The daidai is used to top an elaborate altar decoration called a kagami mochi. This tradition is thought to date back to the 16th or 17th century.

And though this is a less formal and solemn tradition, many cultures around the world have associated citrus with Christmas. Here in the United States, it was once very common to receive an orange in the toe of one’s stocking. This was back when oranges were more of a rare, expensive luxury. Today, oranges still make a great gift around the holiday and year round. Send someone you love the unique gift of fresh oranges! In Europe, too, oranges remain associated with gift-giving and holidays.

Oranges in shoes for St. Nicholas's Day.
In Germany, for instance, children receive oranges (along with sweets and nuts) in their shoes on December 6th—St. Nicholas’s Day. And many delicious , traditional Christmas treats also incorporate the flavor of oranges and other citrus.

It’s been fascinating learning about some of the uses of citrus in cultures around the world—and this is just the tip of the iceberg. These gorgeous, delicious, and fragrant fruits have found their way into art, religion, and culture for centuries. When you enjoy citrus, you’re joining millions of other people around the world who have venerated and valued these amazing fruits.


Image Credits

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Monday, April 7, 2014

This Homemade Citrus Treat Takes Just 4 Minutes in Your Microwave

I’m guessing you passed up the “Microwave Cooking” books the last time you browsed the cookbook section in your local used bookstore. Back when the microwave was a new and exciting convenience, these books probably flew off the shelves. Yet as time went on, most people settled into using microwaves mainly for reheating leftovers and making frozen entrees. The concept of actually “cooking” in microwaves was mostly forgotten.

However, there are some recipes that can be easily made in your microwave with less fuss and trouble than on the stove, and with great results. Recently, I came across a recipe for microwave lemon curd.

Homemade lemon curd is really delicious, and a fabulous topping for all kinds of things--but the stovetop version is a bit of a production. For one thing, it involves a double boiler. Personally, I don’t own a double boiler, so when a recipe calls for one, I tend to improvise with this and that. Frankly, this doesn’t always end well.

Stovetop lemon curd also involves a fair bit of patience. I don’t know about you, but standing still and whisking something has never really been my favorite kind of kitchen job.

The great thing about microwaving citrus curd is that there’s no double boiler, and not nearly as much stirring. It’s also very quick to make. Clean-up is easier, too.

Lemon curd is most traditional, but you can make curds with all kinds of citrus, including lime, orange, grapefruit, and other, more exotic varieties. I’ve been enjoying some gorgeous grapefruit recently, and I thought I’d see how that unique flavor worked in a curd. I wasn’t disappointed.

There are lots of recipes out there, but this one is pretty simple. Stock up on some grapefruit and give it a try!

Grapefruit Curd

(Yield: about 2 cups)


  • 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (note: you may substitute another type of citrus)
  • 1 T fresh grapefruit zest (Optional—some people prefer a totally smooth curd. You can also try this tip: use a vegetable peeler to remove large pieces of peel. Cook the curd with them in to extract their flavor, and remove them when it’s done.)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk


Thoroughly whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
Then whisk in the juice, zest, and finally, the melted butter.
Microwave at full power for about 4 minutes, removing and whisking after each minute, till the mixture smoothly coats the back of a spoon and is distinctly thicker—about the consistency of heavy cream.
Pour the curd into a container and refrigerate it. It will thicken up quite a bit as it cools.  The curd will keep at least 3 weeks.

This delicious curd, with the unique sweet-sour tang of grapefruit, makes a luscious topping for all kinds of foods. Think biscuits, scones, waffles, pancakes, or even just plain old toast and English muffins.

You can also stir the curd into yogurt, oatmeal, or cottage cheese, fill crepes with it, or dip berries into it. Or, if you’d like to take things in a more decadent direction, how about using it to top ice cream or cheesecakes, or as the filling for tarts and bars?

We also won’t tell anyone if you decide to just eat it out of the jar with a spoon. Enjoy this easy and delicious citrus treat!

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Everything You Didn’t Know About Orange Blossoms

What flower’s fragrance is your absolute favorite? We all know that the roses smell wonderful, and many enjoy the heavy, deep aroma of gardenia. Down south, wisteria and jasmine are often planted for the glorious perfume they bring to a yard. And while the flowers are tiny, the scent of lily of the valley is exquisite.

Orange blossoms
were a symbol of love
and fertility for the
ancient Greeks.
But if you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit an orange grove in March when the trees are in bloom, then you’ve experienced one of the most delicately beautiful fragrances on earth. There’s really nothing quite like this scent, which is sweet, light, ethereal and somehow very fresh. Aromatherapy holds that the essence of orange blossoms is naturally cheering and uplifting, and I’m certainly inclined to agree. I’ve even heard it said that heaven must smell like orange blossoms.

While the flowers aren’t extremely showy, orange blossoms also certainly have a dainty, feminine beauty. Interestingly, they’ve long had an association with weddings and love, dating back thousands of years. Greek mythology holds that when Hera wedded Zeus, Gaia, the earth goddess, crowned her with orange blossoms as a symbol of love and fertility.

For her wedding, Queen Victoria wore a wreath
of orange blossoms instead of a tiara.
Much later, orange blossoms became madly popular among Victorian brides after Queen Victoria chose to wear a wreath of the fragrant flowers on her wedding day. Bride after bride followed suit, wearing the blossoms in their hair or carrying them in their bouquets.  Artisans even crafted imitation orange blooms out of wax for women who couldn’t get their hands on the real thing. Women who yearn for a Victoriana wedding can still purchase these wax hair ornaments today, and tiaras, wedding jewelry, and even wedding dresses with orange blossom themes and ornamentation remain popular–and lovely.

Orange Blossom water is
used in many Middle Eastern
and European recipes.
Orange blossoms are edible, though not many of us in this country have been lucky enough to try them. In Morocco, the flowers are steeped with mint and green tea leaves to create what must be a gloriously sweet-smelling beverage. They can also be candied or used to decorate baked goods. Commercially, the blooms of the bitter orange tree are used to make orange flower water, an ingredient in Middle Eastern and European cooking. Orange flower water lends its sweet perfume to treats like baklava, meringues, and madeleines.

Appropriately enough, the orange blossom is the state flower of Florida. If you’ve never had a chance to appreciate this enchanting scent, I hope that one day you’ll have the opportunity. For now, you might seek out one of the many perfumes, fragrances, or essential oils derived from the flowers. Or maybe you can get your hands on one of those tasty baked goods made with orange flower water. In the meantime, we might suggest enjoying the sweet, delectable flavor of a fresh orange or tangerine. After all, they’re the delicious end result of these fleeting, sweet blossoms.

Image Attribution

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Don’t Throw Away Those Orange Peels - Make This Gourmet Ingredient Instead

If you’ve ever juiced a pile of oranges for a recipe, a big breakfast, or maybe even a decadent mimosa brunch, you know that you end up with a big pile of rinds afterwards. To most of us, this probably looks like something to sweep into the garbage.

But hold on a minute there! Has it ever crossed your mind that you’re throwing out a world of flavor every time you do this? As every cook knows, the zest of an orange (or any citrus) can add sweet aroma and powerful citrus essence to a recipe.

So why not take these former “throwaways” and use them to stock your pantry with some great citrus-based flavor boosters? Today, we’ll teach you how to make dried, powdered orange zest and citrus salt and sugar from discarded peels. You can use these items to easily and conveniently flavor your food, even when your fresh citrus is long gone.

To make the dried peel, we’re first going to use a knife to remove the zest from a few oranges. Of course, thoroughly wash and lightly scrub them first to remove any surface dirt.

Zested orange
I used just two oranges for this demonstration, but for efficiency’s sake, you’ll probably want to wait till you’re about to juice a lot of oranges. If you need to restock on oranges, we can help with that. Note that I didn’t peel the oranges by hand. Instead, I used a sharp knife to remove the colored exterior zest, while trying not to get too much of the white interior pith, which is a little bitter. I wasn’t too compulsive about this, though.

Next, I put my zest pieces into a very low oven (170 degrees; if your oven won’t go quite this low, set it at its lowest temp and start checking them sooner) and baked them for about 3 hours, or until they easily snapped in half. Here are the baked zest pieces.

Baked zest pieces

You could also use a dehydrator for this step, or, if you’re patient, you could try drying them in the sun or at room temperature, which will probably take a few days to a week, depending on the weather. Some websites mention that it’s possible to bake them at a higher temperature for a short time (250 for 1 hour) for a slightly more “roasted” flavor.

Next, I got out my coffee grinder to grind the peel. First, I cleaned it out to make sure it wouldn’t leave any coffee odor or taste on my zest. A damp Q-tip helps with this, but here’s a neat trick: take a small piece of white bread, break it apart, and put that into the grinder and whiz it for a minute. It’ll really help clean out the interior.

Pulse the zest for about 30 seconds to a minute, stopping every so often to make sure any large pieces get redistributed. It should quickly break down into a nice, soft powder that looks something like this. I got about 3 ½ tablespoons from just two oranges.

Powdered zest after grinding

You can stop here and store your dried zest in a glass jar, to be used much as you would fresh orange zest.  It’ll work beautifully in all kinds of baked goods, marinades, salad dressings, meat rubs—anywhere you’d use fresh zest. It has a slightly more mellow and less acidic flavor, but you should be able to substitute it about 1 for 1.

With just a few minutes more, you can add citrus salt and citrus sugar to your pantry. To make the salt, you’ll need some coarse-grained sea salt. Mine came in a shaker, but you can also often find this in bulk. Just don’t get the fine sea salt that looks like regular iodized salt.

Citrus salt in the grinder
Whir about 1½ Tbsp of your zest with about ½ cup of the salt in the coffee grinder, just till the salt breaks down a little and mixes nicely with the zest. You’ll probably need to do this in batches. Here’s what mine looked like when I stopped.

This is a great “finishing salt” to be added at the end of cooking to chicken, fish, shrimp, vegetables, and pasta. (Or how about on salted caramels? Wow.) It adds a beautiful, haunting citrus flavor even when you have no citrus on hand. It would also be a really deluxe touch around the rim of a homemade margarita.

Citrus sugar
The citrus sugar is even easier. Just add 1 tbsp of zest to 1 cup of sugar in a jar, and shake vigorously. Taste this if you like (it’s no hardship) and add more zest or sugar to your preference. This lovely, fragrant sugar can be added to tea or iced tea and used to amp up the citrus flavor in any baked good—just substitute citrus sugar for regular sugar. You won’t have trouble finding ways to use it up, believe me.

Your citrus salt and citrus sugar would also be great homemade gifts for foodies, packaged in attractive jars, perhaps with a pretty ribbon. Just remember to label which is which!

And don’t forget—you made all this from (basically) nothing. Not only that, you reduced waste and created something gourmet in the process! Citrus is an incredible fruit for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about it is the way you really can use the whole thing. Look for more posts on great ways to use citrus peels and zest in the future.

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