Winter is the season for citrus and while citrus is not at all local to me here in Montana, we do eat some now and then. As in everything we do here at our homestead, we try to have as little waste as possible. Using citrus peels gives us ample opportunity to get creative with what would otherwise be considered waste.
Compost Citrus Peels
Citrus peels can be composted but they can take a very long time to break down in the piles. Citrus peels should not be put in vermicomposting bins, as the citrus as it tends to be too acidic for the red wiggler worms. When composting it in a traditional pile, make sure to cut them into smaller pieces to help it break down faster.
Dehydrate Citrus Peels
Dry those peels. Lay them out on dehydrator trays and dry at 125 degrees until crisp. Alternatively string the peels with a needle and thread and hang somewhere warm and dry (near the wood stove, for example) until they're crispy dry. Careful with this method as they could mold before drying if the air is humid or cool. It's worth trying however.
Once dried, those peels have a multitude of uses:
Dried citrus peels are a flavorful addition to hot tea.
Add coarsely ground peels to homemade body sugar & salt scrubs for a little extra exfoliating power.
Make a homemade Vitamin C supplement by mixing dried powder with other herbs for a natural solution.
Rather than running the dehydrator every day – keep peels stored in a container in the refrigerator. Once a week, put all the collected peels in the dehydrator and run until dry. The great thing about grinding it all into a powder is that it's easy to store in a compact place.
Infuse Citrus Peels
Put those peels in a jar with some vinegar and let it sit for a few weeks. After straining use that citrus vinegar for all your household cleaning needs.
Mix the zest with salt or sugar for a delightful citrus flavor for all your savory and sweet cooking needs. Lemon salt is especially good on chicken or fish. Orange sugar is delightful in cookies, even hot chocolate.
Cover the zest with vodka and let it steep. After a few weeks, a citrus flavored extract is born. That extract is perfect for use in cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. It's even delicious mixed with a little sugar syrup as an adult cordial.
Remember, most any citrus peel can be substituted for another, so don't be shy in making tangerine salt or grapefruit extract, simply substitute equal amounts of zest or rind in any recipe calling for citrus peel.
As this winter season moves by us, be sure to save and use every bit of that expensive, organic citrus for use in the home. Use those peels for cleaning, body products, food and much more that will last long beyond this winter season. What's your favorite way to use citrus peels?