Our Favorite Ways To Use & Preserve Citrus
One of the best parts about gardening in Southern California is the citrus. This time of year there is literally citrus galore—especially in Orange County. I grew up in a neighborhood, not far from where I live now, that used to be an orange grove. In fact, many parts of Southern California used to be orange and avocado groves.
I am by no means a preserving expert, but I will say that Sam and I have dedicated this season to citrus and trying as many recipes as we can. Therefore, I hope you enjoy this post that will be serving as our journal for citrus preserving and helpful ideas—updated as we go along.
Ideas for using or preserving citrus
♦ Enjoy Fresh!
Obviously, enjoying fresh picked fruit is one of the joys of gardening and growing food. We always try and enjoy our tangerines as fresh snacks, fresh lemon slices in water, and fresh squeezed orange juice. After enjoying our fill of fresh fruit, then it’s all about preserving and saving your citrus for future uses.
One kitchen tool we have used in the last couple years is a manual fruit press juicer. This incredible tool makes juicing easy and fast, but we also use it for juicing pomegranates too!
♦Caramelized Tangerine Vinaigrette
Citrus season also happens to coincide with lettuce season here in Southern CA. I spotted this recipe over on Food 52 and was immediately obsessed. In fact, there are many different ways to incorporate citrus into salads. Check out this recipe for caramelized tangerine vinaigrette from Food 52. NOTE: when I tried the recipe, it didn’t have enough “bite” from the vinegar. I recommend adding vinegar to taste and then gradually whisking in olive oil to taste (I barely needed any). Also, the pinch of salt really brings out the flavor!
♦ Dehydrated/dried Citrus Slices
♦ Frozen Juice
After you’ve enjoyed your fresh glass of orange, tangerine, or grapefruit juice, it is also possible to freeze your juice. If you choose to freeze juice in mason jars, make sure you follow all safety precautions. Only freeze liquids in straight sided, freezer-safe mason jars—they usually have the words “For Freezing Fill Here” embossed on them so you know how much headspace to leave. You can also freeze juice in freezer-safe bags.
For those recipes that require just a tablespoon or small amount of lime/lemon juice, I like to freeze some juice in an ice cube tray and then pop those out into a freezer-safe bag for future use. I just used one of my lime cubes for a dinner of chicken tortilla soup!
♦Candied Citrus Peels
We used a recipe from AllRecipes.com as a base for our candied peels, but we boiled the peels for a longer period of time. You want any pith (white layer) on the peel to be translucent when you are done boiling. We also left them in the sugar syrup for 15 minutes (which is longer than the recipe recommends). ***reserve the peel-infused sugar syrup after draining the peels.
Candied citrus peels can be eaten from the jar, or chopped into baked goods (like scones). They also make beautiful garnishes.
♦Make iced tea or lemonade with the citrus peel infused syrup (referenced above)
The peel sugar syrup (from candied peels) really adds the perfect touch to a refreshing glass of iced tea or lemonade. We also had this great idea to make our own lemonade concentrate for the summer. We combined lemon juice with the syrup and froze it in freezer-safe jars (again, follow all safety precautions). In the summer, all you have to do is whip out your frozen concentrate and mix with the appropriate amount of water to make lemonade. Our ratio for the concentrate was about 1 cup lemon juice to 3/4 cup simple syrup. When it is time to mix your lemonade, just add about 2 cups water.
♦Freeze whole citrus
I found this article over on Budget Bytes and my mind was blown! I have now frozen two full bags of lemons. This is such an easy way to preserve your citrus if you are running out of time or have way too much!
Oh my my, have you ever had a preserved lemon? It’s incredibly pungent and salty with insanely bright citrus flavor! My favorite way to use them was sliced very thinly and tossed with roasted vegetables, like romanesco and cauliflower! Here are two wonderful recipes:
My friend Carrie over at Artichokes and Okra: https://www.artichokesandokra.com/blog/preserved-lemons/2018/2/5
Preserved Lemons two ways: https://alexandracooks.com/2014/01/10/preserved-lemons-two-ways-weekend-project/
♦Lemon Peel Powder
A delicious seasoning to have in your kitchen pantry! You can read about how to make your own lemon peel powder HERE.
Canning safety is really REALLY important to me—especially because I am a canning beginner. Take it from me, don’t just use random canning recipes from the internet. Botulism from unsafe, canned foods is a real thing! When we first started, I went to the library and checked out the Ball Canning books and America’s Test Kitchen Foolproof Preserving book. These two books are choc full of safe, tested recipes for preserving your garden goods. Eventually, I purchased both of those books for our home library.
Honey spiced oranges are in the Ball Canning book and also online HERE. They recommend eating them chopped into salad, but I have to be honest: they are way too sweet for me to do that. My favorite way to eat them are over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or in a cup of hot tea. The honey and orange add the perfect flavor to a good cup of black tea.
Finding savory recipes using citrus was definitely one of our goals this season. We tried this Lemon Risotto from Epicurious and LOVED it. We topped ours with edible pea shoots for a wonderful, Spring dish. If you are curious about growing your own edible peas for sweet snacks and shoots, you can read my Guide to Growing Edible Peas.
Again, please refer to safe canning and preserving resources if you are interested in making your own jams, jellies, or marmalade. You know my two favorite books, but here is also a link to the UC Master Food Preservers page that cites credible resources.
We plan to use our marmalade to eat with toast, scones, in a ham glaze, or for glazing meatballs. Either way, it is a wonderful addition to any kitchen pantry or for gifting.
♦Orange & Rosemary Sweet Potato Casserole
This sweet side dish owes it’s flavor to the orange that is tucked between sweet potato slices and then squeezed over the whole dish. Find it HERE
This is one of Sam’s favorite ways to use a lemon. Curd is delicious spread on toast, mixed with yogurt, paired with fresh whipped cream and berries, and more! For a dinner party once, Sam and I brought mini mason jar desserts. They had a little bit of curd layered with fresh whipped cream and berries on top. They were a hit! PS: there are lots of lemon curd recipes online, but I hope to be adding ours to the website soon!
♦Perk up roasted vegetables!
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and potatoes are best when roasted with lemon zest and a generous squeeze of lemon juice before and after. Sauteed greens like spinach, bok choy, mustard, and kale are made even better with fresh lemon juice squeezed over the top.
♦Lemon infused pasta
Yes, we’ve done this and it is delicious! Simply follow our basic homemade pasta recipe and add in an entire lemon’s worth of zest. Add the zest after you crack the eggs, before you start mixing. The flavor does not end up being overpowering, but rather refreshing and pairing well with sauces that are not tomato based (like parmesan cream or something simple with olive oil and sauteed greens).
To be continued…
As we try more citrus recipes, I’ll be adding them to this article. If you want to refer back to this article later, please feel free to pin any images to your own Pinterest boards!
What are your favorite ways to preserve or use citrus? Leave your thoughts & comments below!