When cooking with fresh oranges, lemons and limes, there’s a unique bonus that other fruits don’t yield. Dried citrus peels are expensive to purchase, yet ever so easy to prepare at home. While enjoying the bounty of luscious citrus fruits, now in season, don’t forget the bonus bouquet of flavoring found in the peel of citrus fruits. You’ll get twice the flavor while stretching your food dollar.
Selecting Citrus for Zest
Never zest citrus fruits which contain injected color dyes. Read the label on the citrus bag before buying. Select organic fruit for zesting. Remove any pesticide or fungicide residue from non-organic fruit by plunging whole fruit in a solution of apple cider vinegar diluted with a little water for two minutes, then scrub. Rinse completely and dry. Better yet, zest only organic citrus fruit.
Peels from orange and lemon are the most frequently used either fresh or dried in most recipes interchangeably. A zester or a vegetable grater may be used to easily prepare citrus peels at home. Do not grate down into the white (pith) portion of the fruit, as it will yield a bitter taste.
Fresh Grated Citrus Peels
When a recipe calls for a teaspoon of lemon peel, grate and measure one teaspoon from a fresh whole lemon and return the lemon to the refrigerator. The lemon will continue to stay fresh in the
produce drawer for about one week.
Drying Citrus Peels
To dry fresh citrus zest, grate peels over a metal tray. Place tray in a gas oven without the heat turned on, overnight. Remove the tray in the morning, label and store in a spice jar out of direct
sunlight. To dry in an electric oven, place the tray of fresh grated peels in the oven at the lowest temperature setting, 150°F for two hours, checking after the first hour for dryness. Citrus peels will change color slightly when dehydrated.
Ideas for using Fresh or Dried Citrus Zest
Add grated citrus peels, fresh or dried, to cake batter and icing, puddings, yogurt, bread dough, homemade fruit preserves, sauces and spreads, hot tea, cider and specialty vinegars, fruit salads, chicken salad, salad dressings and marinades.
A potato peeler can also be used to zest a long strip of citrus peel to garnish food. Tie a long strand of orange or lemon zest into a bow to decorate any entrée, beverage or dessert.
Deborah Tukua is the editor of Journey to Natural Living and the author of Citrus Morning, Noon & Night: A Citrus Cookbook, which features over 130 luscious recipes to enjoy citrus at every meal. Her spiral bound cookbook is available, http://www.journeytonatliv.com/shop-our-market.html
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