I realize this is somewhat of an esoteric idea, drying out all the discard peels from squeezing citrus fruits for juice. Or maybe it’s not for some of you? A few years ago, well, seven years to be exact, I would’ve seen this as a no-brainer, something we should all be doing. I would’ve written about how easy it is (actually, it is). I would’ve told you it takes no time at all (it doesn’t, in fact you can literally do it in your sleep). These days, though, I try to remind myself of the whirlwind life creates.
I still approach my relationship to food this way, but see it all through a new lens. Widowhood just does that to you. Food tastes differently. Techniques, even the ones I’ve done a million times, feel different, as though my fingers and hands are connected to someone other than the woman from my life before the summer of 2011. Does this make sense? I’m not quite sure my words make as much sense on the screen as they do echoing around in my head.
Anyway, I thought this was worth sharing, as this idea is a relatively new one to me. Not sure why it took me so long to connect the dots. I’ve been drying out clementine peels for a couple of years now to make this magic dust. I even make seasoned salts from citrus zest. But drying out the shells left from juicing a ridiculous of oranges recently left me realizing there was one more way to close the gap between the edible and inedible. Another way to rethink my relationship to food waste in my own kitchen, and by extension, inspiring you to think differently about it, too.
After squeezing six pounds of clementines to serve up some fresh juice at breakfast while one of my best friends was visiting with her kiddos a few weeks ago, I looked at the piled up clementine shells, and thought “I should dry those out, surely my future self with be thankful”. I arranged them in a single layer on two sheet pans, and set them in a low oven, fluctuating between 170ºF and 200ºF (opting for the lower temperature before I went to bed for the evening). These were particularly plump clementines before being juiced, so the peels retained a good deal of moisture.
If I recall correctly, the whole drying time, took a half day, give or take. I didn’t write down a recipe because, well, you really don’t need one here. You want the dried peels to be crisp—they should snap when you break them. If they’re at all springy or flexible, they need more drying time. Of course if you live in a warm climate, you can also let nature do the job, setting the tray, or trays, out in the sun, covered with cheesecloth to protect from bugs and critters. You can also set them out around the house to dry out if your house isn’t humid, and you’ve the patience to wait out that longer process.
Well, this is quite more than I imagined I’d write, or even necessary, for such a relatively simple task. As always, thanks for sticking around this little part of the digital world with me. And oh, in case you’re wondering what you can do with these dried out shells (duh, I should’ve said so sooner!), they’re versatile. Grind them into a fine powder, and add it to breads, cakes, frostings, or these crackers. Coarser ground peels can be used in homemade tea blends, and the whole shells can be tossed into a pot of stew, or other long-braised meats (brisket, pot roast). Regarding storage, I tucked mine in a few glass jars, and have them in the basement with the rest of back up pantry items.
Music Pairing: Like I’m Gonna Lose You by Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend
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