I am the queen of best intentions, one of those great intentions is always having fresh citrus around to pop into tea, water, and recipes for an extra kick of flavor. The reality of this is that I buy a bunch of gorgeous fruits and then they proceed to go bad as I forget to use them, I toss them, and repeat the process. Fortunately a great way to fix this has been taking all that lovely citrus and dehydrating it for extended use. I have a dehydrator but if you don’t you can easily dry a batch of fruit in your oven too.
How To Dehydrate Citrus
Select the fruit you want to dry. I am using limes, lemons, and oranges. Make sure they are clean and remove stickers. In order to get the zest and fruit but not the bitter white pith I peeled the zest away with a carrot peeler. Try to get as little pith as possible by keeping your peels thin and not pressing too hard. After I peeled the fruit I cut it into thin slices so that this can be dried separately. At this point you have to decide if you are going the oven or dehydrator route. The dehydrators are great, more energy efficient, and not too pricey. But if it isn’t something you will use a lot or have limited space you may just want to use your oven.
In the Dehydrator
I have this affordable 5 tray dehyrator from Ronco, it is pretty simple but a good value if you’re looking to get one. Mine does not have options for temperature, so if you are using a different one I recommend checking your manual for individual temperature settings and dry times. For mine I just place the zest strips together on some trays since they dry faster and the citrus meat on the others. Since they dry slower and need more time I put the meat in the bottom closer to the heat source. I checked on it and in about 8 hours the zests were ready to be removed. Left overnight, close to 24 hours, I removed the meat slices. I left them a little longer so they would get really dry, but they may brown a tad bit. There were a few thin cut ones that I had to remove sooner. Checking in on your fruit is really important but since it is such a slow process with the dehydrator there is a lot of room for negligence.
In the Oven
Your oven will dehydrate much quicker so make sure you keep a little more vigilant with checking in on your fruit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and lay all the zests together and meats together without overlapping. Place your oven at it’s lowest setting and prop the door open a bit (I used a folded pot holder). Everything here will depend on how low your oven goes, mine has a lowest setting of Warm and then 200 after that, so I’m not really sure what “Warm” is quantified as. My zests were finished within 3-4 hours and the wheels of fruit were done around 8 hours.
This is the fun part! Experiment with using your dried citrus where you would normally use fresh. Try the meat versus the zest. I love the vibrant flavor of the dried flesh but the zest can add a nice understated zing to food and drink. Make sure you store them in airtight containers once cool.
Seasonings- try pulverizing the meat or zest in a spice grinder and make your own seasoning mixes or set aside for those recipes that call for citrus zest. Homemade lemon pepper anyone? Try lemon sugar for your iced tea and my personal favorite, a snappy orange salt for margarita rims.
Drinks- Add a strip of zest or a wheel to water or tea. Keep them in ziplocs in your purse to pep up your water on the go. Try making your own tea blends featuring the dried zest.
Candy- If you are a fan of sour candy then this is nature’s gift to you. I pop the dried flesh out of the wheels and eat it straight. Oranges are a fun sweet and sour treat, lemons will have you wincing! As much as I love limes raw, they just don’t do it for me here but give it a try.
Cooking- use in broths, marinades, and the like to add extra flavor. I can’t wait to add some of my slices to the next pot of cuban black beans I make!