~~It is winter and probably some of the best fruit of the year is easily accessible and in abundance. Citrus. It is no accident that citrus, thanks to Mother Nature is available to us during the time of the year when we need it most. The cold weather and the even more mild winters that fluctuate from warmer days to extreme colds challenge our immune system. We can break down easy this time of year just from excess stress and cold weather alone. Citrus and its dosage of vitamin C are key to keeping our immunity strong and is a great preventative, holistic remedy for all that might ail you.
Other than its health properties, citrus is delicious. Would it not be great if you could conserve it for the rest of the year? These ideas for preserving citrus, of course will not be the same as fresh fruit, but they are treats. Check them out and try some for yourself.
One of the best ways to preserve the flavor of citrus is by drying the peel. Orange and lemon peel is the best. You can dry the entire rind or simply the zest. You can do this by using a food dehydrator. When preparing the peel or the zest, try and avoid getting too much of the pith, as this can be very bitter, especially when dried. The best citrus for these purposes are those with thin rinds. If you can, organic is the best, as the skins will not contain any harsh chemicals. Use the dried zest in baked goods. Add a touch to classic chocolate cookies!
Another way to preserve the citrus essence is candied orange peels. Lemon is nice too. Simply slice the skin into strips, with minimal pith. Blanch the strips in boiling water to remove bitter elements and then simmer in syrup. Lay them on a tray and bake for about 10 minutes in a medium-hot oven. You want them to become more dried out, rather than bake. They make great, healthy snacks for the kids or as a garnish for any dessert.
Another fun one, dried citrus fruit leather. Add it to purees for other fruit, as citrus alone is too watery, so it must be combined with the pulp of other fruits to dry properly. Try a banana-orange combination or pear and lemon!
If you love lemon and would like to preserve it to have on hand all throughout the year, try this, salt-cured lemons. All you do is wash the skins, trim the ends off and slice them as if you are slicing them into quarters, but do not slice all the way through. You want it cut into four pieces, but leave them attached to the whole. Once all the lemons are prepped fill the bottom jars you are going to use with salt and pack it well. Kosher or sea salt is best. Hold the lemon over the jar and spill the salt into the cut areas. Push them into the jar and spread the salt in between each layer. Top the jar off with salt as well and close. For three days, leave the jars on the counter. Every once in a while give them a good shake. By day four they should be submerged in their own juice. Place them in the fridge and after 3 weeks they will be ready to use. Toss slices in salads or use in braises. They make a great touch to healthy grain dishes as well.