Saturday, December 24, 2016

25 Amazing Uses for an Orange Peel

Is there anything more deliciously and naturally refreshing than a perfectly sweet, juicy, ripe orange? I eat citrus every day when it’s in season, but I never get tired of it. And since oranges are low in calories and high in fiber while also being loaded with vitamins, they’re a completely guilt-free treat.

Of course, as we all know, oranges can also be juiced for use on the breakfast table, in smoothies, or in thousands of different beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. And oranges are so enjoyable to cook and bake with, in sweet and savory applications. From breakfast to dessert, the recipes just keep coming.

But have you ever stopped to consider that the outside of the orange has tens, even hundreds of amazing uses, too? You may be quite familiar with the inclusion of grated peel in recipes, including cookies, scones, and cakes, and savory dishes like chicken, roasted veggies, and more. But things definitely don’t stop there. Far from being just something to throw away or compost, the fragrant, beautiful exterior of these citrus fruits, rich with the heady fragrance of orange oils, has so many incredible applications. Curious? Check out these 25 ways to use an orange peel--we’ve got beauty products, home fragrances, seasonings, cleansers, liquors, and so much more.

(Note: many of these idea start out with dried orange peels. There are several different methods of doing this; all are quite simple. Here’s one method, and another is on this page.)
  1. Enjoy a sweet-smelling scented sachet, made with dried citrus peel. Lovely to tuck away in a drawer or closet.
  2. Keep your skin soft with a citrus sea salt scrub. This is so incredibly fast to put together—just 10 minutes and a few very common ingredients—and it smells and feels amazing.

  3. Drink and be merry with homemade mulling spices including dried orange peel. This is a really easy and fun little gift to whip up. They can be added to either cider or wine.
  4. Make your own fragrant orange sugar or orange finishing salt after starting with dried peels. A gourmet touch from such basic ingredients.
  5. DIY yourself some super-simple orange vodka and then follow up with some homemade, wallet-friendly orange liqueur.
  6. While you’re at it, why not create some of these adorable orange peel drink garnishes? Now that’s a snazzy cocktail.
  7. Make this luscious orange body butter and treat yourself. Looks almost good enough to eat!

  8. Of course, candy your citrus peels! Almost everyone loves this sparkly, bright-flavored treat, and they look impressive too.
  9. Give your whole house a warm, sweet fragrance with a quick orange-scented simmer pot. Great if you need to usher a lingering strong smell out of your home.
  10. Fizz your troubles away with an orange bath bomb, made from a few drugstore ingredients, orange zest, and orange essential oil. (Don’t have any? Check out #17!)
  11. Run a few chopped up orange peels through your garbage disposal with a couple of ice cubes to freshen things up and sharpen the blades.
  12. Serve lemon or orange sorbet in halved peel “bowls” for a beautifully refreshing summer treat.
  13. Stamp holiday shapes out of the peel using cookie cutters. Then dry them in the oven or at room temperature, and make adorable holiday garlands, ornaments, and gift tags.
  14. Jazz up potpourri and centerpieces with these gorgeous dried orange peel roses. There’s a bit of a knack to it (we’ve made a few), but they’re fun to do!
  15. Refresh and moisturize your ovely face with an orange-honey-oat face mask, made with dried orange peel and fresh juice.
  16. Create your own orange extract. It’s almost embarrassingly easy, and so much cheaper.
  17. Go a step further, if you like, and make your own orange essential oil—super useful for soaps, lotions, and bath goodies. It’s quite simple and mainly requires time.
  18. Harness the power of citrus to make this incredible citrus cleaner using safe and natural ingredients.
  19. Leave a bit of orange peel in your brown sugar container to keep the sugar from “bricking up” on you.
  20. Use empty orange or tangerine halves to make candles by scooping out the fruit and filling the halves with olive oil. How neat is that?
  21. Bake chocolate cake, cinnamon rolls, or other goodies in empty halved orange peels over a campfire for a delicious treat with nothing to wash. 
  22. Use empty orange peels as quick, temporary birdfeeders. A fun project to do together with kids.
  23. Make an easy and natural orange air freshener spray to have on hand to keep your home smelling sweet without all the chemicals.
  24. Start your campfire, fire pit fire, or fireplace fire with these super-simple dried orange peel fire starters. Effective and fragrant!
  25. Make these beautiful all-natural “sprinkles” out of dehydrated orange peel, lemon and lime peel, and raspberries! Wouldn’t this be great for a child with dye allergies?

Wow, what an amazing list! But believe it or not, we’ve just scratched (or should that be “peeled”?) the surface here. For more awesome DIY ideas using citrus, along with recipe boards, gift ideas, vintage Florida citrus history, and more, visit our new Pinterest page!

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Magic of the Sour Seville

You love oranges, right? Of course…we all do. Juicy, brightly colored, and...sour?

Wait a minute.

Well, until just a few hundred years ago, that’s what oranges were! The world’s “original” eating orange, thought by many to be native to Asia, was the bitter or “sour” orange. These fruit are also today known as Seville oranges, after a city in Spain where they have long been famously grown.

The sour orange was first imported to the Mediterranean and Africa in approximately the 10th century. It then spread to Europe, particularly Spain, in the 12th century, where it became wildly popular and an expensive luxury fruit. Soon the sour orange was introduced to the new world, including Florida and the Caribbean. (You can actually still sometimes find sour orange trees growing today in the woodlands of Florida, remnants of the trees introduced by the Spaniards.)

While a sour orange may not at first sound highly appealing to some of us today, the fruit was highly valued in that form. In fact, this type of orange has been and still is incredibly popular and an amazing world traveler, making appearances in a vast variety of fascinating and complex dishes around the globe. Many say that when it comes to cooking, the depth of its flavor simply can’t be matched by sweet oranges.

Those of us in British-influenced counties may know the Seville or sour orange best for its traditional use in marmalade. This beautiful orange-amber preserve goes back to the late 1600s and is traditionally eaten not just at breakfast with scones, crumpets, and toast, but at teatime and even dinner, with meats. Marmalade is made from the peel of the orange and is rather bittersweet, but this is part of its allure. The Seville is highly preferred for this preserve due to its superior flavor and high pectin content (the pectin is what makes the jam set). By the way, marmalade is not the only way bitter oranges are used in a preserve! In Iran, the beautiful fragrant blossoms of the fruit are used to make a special jam, which must be wonderfully aromatic. Here is a recipe for this fascinating jam!

The sour orange has also often been preserved in other ways. For instance, in Greece, the Middle East, and Russia, they are preserved in sugar syrup in a treat known as spoon sweets. In India, sour oranges are pickled in salt and eaten as a condiment alongside savory dishes, such as yogurt rice.

Seville or sour oranges also have a rich history of use in meat or poultry marinades. This use is amazingly international, spanning Iran, India, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. Mojo Criollo, a Cuban citrus marinade and dressing, is very popular on meats and salads in South Florida, especially the Miami area. It absolutely relies on sour oranges (along with garlic, spices, and olive oil) for its authentic flavor. Here’s a Mojo Turkey recipe, or try this one for mojo shrimp—delicious. Sour orange also goes beautifully with fish.

And let’s not forget the booze! You may not realize that the orange flavor in classic orange liqueurs like Grand Marnier, curacao, and triple sec also comes the versatile Seville orange. It’s actually the dried peel that’s used to flavor these special beverages. The very flavorful peel is also an ingredient in Belgian witbier, or “white beer,” and in Swedish glogg, a type of spiced wine. In Spain, dried Seville peel is added to sweet white wine to make orange Moscatel. Seville oranges are also used to make orange cocktail bitters, an aromatic alcohol used in small quantities in mixed drinks (the most famous “bitter” is Angostura)

Finally, it has often been used for desserts. (This isn’t strange, when you think about it…consider how much we love lemon in sweets!) Sour orange pie is quite traditional in the southern United States, and Seville orange tart and cake are also popular among those with an affinity for this fruit. In Sweden and Finland, sour orange peel is used to flavor gingerbread and an unusual and ancient Finnish treat called Mammi, made of rye flour, malted rye powder, seasoned salt, and orange peel.

We hope we’ve piqued your curiosity a bit and gotten you to ponder the importance and mystique of this very ancient fruit. If you think you’d like to try the rather rare and special Seville, you may find them at your local grocery if you’re lucky—or, you can order a box from Florida Fruit Shippers.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Home Canning with Citrus

This time of year, those of us at Florida Fruit Shippers are bringing in the first harvest of beautiful, juicy Florida tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit. If you’re like me and don’t eat citrus out of season (the imported stuff is so dry, tired, and flavorless compared to what we get off the tree!) it’s a great joy to be able to enjoy these tangy, fresh fruit once again.

Some might say there’s absolutely no such thing as too much citrus, and that may be true. However, you may sometimes feel the urge to preserve a bountiful citrus crop through canning. The great news is that there are tons of options, once you’ve learned the basics. For a beginner’s course, check out Ball Canning’s Canning 101 and their Canning Guides. Fortunately, high-acid citrus is easy to can using the simple water bath method.

The first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of “oranges in a jar” is probably marmalade. This is quite a time-honored confection; the first known recipe appeared in an English cookbook in 1714. Marmalade, which typically features large pieces of orange peel, has been a fixture of British and especially Scottish cuisine for generations. Legend has it that it was invented to take advantage of a lost Spanish ship full of oranges that came ashore in the British isles...the cargo needed to be used up! While it can be a bit of an acquired taste, it also can be oddly addictive, with its caramelized flavor adding a certain something to many dishes.

You can certainly make your own marmalade, and there are many ways to do it. Traditionally, one uses the rather rare and hard to come by Seville orange, and the seeds of the orange provide the pectin that allows the jam to gel. Here’s one very British and properly researched recipe that looks entirely reliable: Perfect Marmalade.

No access to Sevilles? Feeling a bit more...American? This recipe is very clear and complete, but somewhat more simple, and does not specify the type of orange. And of course, there are many, many, fun and intriguing marmalade “spin-offs,” like this Clementine Rum Marmalade, this Blood Orange Marmalade or this Cranberry Orange Marmalade, which would be great on leftover turkey sandwiches at the holidays.

You may think of grapefruit as a little too intense for jam, but think again. Actually, as with marmalade, the sweetness of a jam is nicely balanced by the sour-bitter edge of this favorite fruit. Here’s a fun and unique recipe for grapefruit jam, which has some of the tang of a marmalade without the texture of the peel, which some don’t care for.

What if you’re just not into your jam having any bitter or sour edge at all? Hey, there’s no shame in that. There are plenty of luscious and sweet orange and tangerine jam recipes out there which do not incorporate rind, and they look amazing. Here’s one that takes advantage of the classic combination of orange and vanilla: Dreamsicle Jam. And this beautiful, smooth clementine jam can be made with any kind of tangerine. I can’t wait to try it with my own fruit.

A simple and versatile idea is this tangerine syrup, made by boiling tangerine juice with sugar, water, and a bit of lemon juice. Very quick to make, especially if you own a good juicer, this bright, sunshiny syrup has so many uses--in mixed drinks, on pancakes and waffles, with meats, on desserts, in tea...the choices are endless.

Finally, if you’re fortunate to both have a fair bit of time and a lot of beautiful citrus to preserve, you might try preserving citrus segments in syrup. You can buy something like this at the store in little individual cups for quite a bit of money, but the ones you can yourself will be better and, of course, cheaper. Once you learn the trick to segmenting citrus, it won’t take too terribly long.

There are so many more possibilities out there for preserving fresh Florida citrus through canning--we’ve really just barely scratched the surface here. For more great home canning recipes, check out our DIY with Citrus board on Pinterest, and follow the rest of our boards on Pinterest, too!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Savory Flavors with Citrus

When you think of cooking with citrus, your mind may drift happily toward thoughts of luscious, sweet, beautiful, and, all right, highly caloric desserts. Well, who can blame you? In a world of key lime pies, orange almond cakes, lemon bars, chocolate-covered orange peels, and grapefruit meringue pies, it can be a little hard to concentrate on other options.

But the thing about citrus is, it’s an incredibly versatile and useful ingredient in all kinds of dishes—not just sweet ones. In fact, when we look back to ancient cookery books, we largely see lemon and oranges included as ingredients in preparations like soups, meats, and stews.

You see, due to their high acidity, citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and tangerines actually have the ability to physically intensify the flavor of food, adding a “zing” that really wows the palate. It’s so effective at this task that citrus is often relied on in low-salt recipes to make food “bright” and flavorful while keeping sodium levels low.

One dish that benefits marvelously from citrus is the green salad, which has been part of our tables for thousands of years. When combined with oil and salt, (and, optionally, other ingredients), citrus juices can create the classic vinaigrette-style dressing that has been used on green salads and cooked vegetables of all types since Greek and Roman times. Citrus vinaigrettes go especially well with salads made with fruits and root vegetables, such as beets.

Marinades are another timeless use of citrus in savory foods. An acidic marinade made of orange or other citrus juices will tenderize meat at the same time as it adds flavor, freshness, and zing. And did you know that marinating your meat actually makes it healthier by reducing the chance that your meat will char? (Blackened meat contains more cancer-causing substances.) This Citrus-Marinated Flank Steak looks absolutely delectable for those of you who enjoy a good slab of red meat. Or, this Citrus Marinated Roasted Chicken is simple, but aromatically rich and flavorful, especially on a cold night.

Of course, many sauces eaten with meat also make use of this incredibly versatile ingredient. Citrus can pair with hearty red meat, as in this recipe for Spareribs Simmered in Orange Sauce. Or you can go a bit lighter with a beloved (if not very traditional) favorite, Chinese Orange Chicken. Seafood with citrus is also a classic match, as in this recipe for Scallops with Orange-Butter Sauce. It even pairs perfectly with non-meat proteins like tofu, as can be seen in the many recipes for orange tofu or tangerine tofu. These Citrus-Tamari Tofu Steaks with Warm Satsumas and Rosemary look incredible, even if you’re not a strict vegetarian.

And if you really want to go all out, the classic but time-consuming preparation, Duck a l’Orange, has been around since at least the 16th century. The French and the Italians have been known to fight about who came up with this basic idea, but regardless of who invented it, it definitely involves a roasted duck, a lot of butter, and a delectable orange sauce.

A final fascinating dish that makes use of citrus’ unusual powers is ceviche. This is an ancient South American preparation, with some sources suggesting it dates back over 2000 years. In ceviche, raw fish or shellfish is marinated in orange, lime, or lemon juice, which denatures the proteins and gives the fish the texture and appearance of being cooked while maintaining freshness and flavor. It is very quick to prepare and quite a delicacy, though one must take care to use seafood that is extremely fresh and of high quality. Try this Orange-Basil Shrimp Ceviche or this Scallop Ceviche with Orange and Avocado today!

There’s certainly plenty of reason to enjoy oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and other citrus fruits fresh for breakfast, lunch, or a snack, or to make them into luscious desserts. However, don’t forget to include this versatile, flavorful ingredient in your savory main dishes as well. The freshness, flavor, and sweetness that citrus bring to the main course add a perfect balance to hundreds, if not thousands of preparations. Bring citrus to your dinner table today.


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