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29 May 2012

Trash To Tresure: Citrus Peels

Jace at the controls of the blog again, this time it’s to share with you an awesome cleaner, candy, and sauce all from something most people throw away: citrus peels! The best part is you don't have to choose one of these things to make, you can do all three with the same peels.

The first step is to eat oranges, since we're reducing processed snacks and trying to include fruit and veggies into all of our meals, this has become easy for us. Next of course is to save the peel! I peel into quarters, and then let the peels sit in the sunny kitchen window sill to dry out (I know this bugs Chelsea to no end, but sacrifices must be made!) You can also use lemon and lime rinds, but we don't use nearly as many of them and they are much harder to separate the flesh from the peel. Actually lemon peels would be better for the cleaner because of their high acidity compared to orange peels, but I digress...
Window sill over flowing with peels: it's been cloudy so they haven't been dying out as quick

Once I've got a quart mason jar full of dried peels (really pack ‘em in there) I fill it to the top with white vinegar and cap it. I leave the jar in the window sill, hoping the alternating warmth from the sun and cool from the night air will draw out more of the orangie goodness (just a theory.) Once the color of the vinegar stops getting darker I pull it from the window sill, but the different places I learned this trick from said leave it for anywhere from 10 days, to as much as a month.
Next, pour off the liquid and save it, this is your cleaner, but we're not done! Now refill the jar with vinegar again and repeat, mixing your two batches together for a more even product.
Place the finished cleaner in a spray bottle and use to wipe up tough messes. The acidity of the vinegar acts as a disinfectant (that's why you pickle things in vinegar after all; too keep the bugs out) and the orange oils you extracted not only provide an interesting scent when paired with the vinegar, but also help cut grease and grime (think about all those orange powered commercial cleaners.)
Citrus cleaner ready to tackle tough jobs!
After you've used the peels to make your cleaner next, use them to make candied citrus rind! This is a candy and is not necessarily healthy, but it has a very similar taste and texture to orange slices like you'd buy at the gas station, but without the HFCS, and with natural orange, so it's not the worst thing in the world.
To make the candy take your peels and bring them to a boil in a pot of water, this will help draw out the vinegar and any remaining oil which would make the candy bitter. Once at a boil I took it off the fire, and drained it, but if you are using fresh peels that haven't soaked in vinegar, let them boil for ten minutes prior to draining. Boil and drain a second time, waiting ten minutes and doing it three times if the peels are fresh, but again, not if they were presoaked.
Next place your peels into a skillet and pour in three cups water and 2 cups (yes two cups) of sugar. Most recipes called for a cup of water and sugar for each cup of citrus peel, but I found this to be more than adequate for our ~4 cups of peel.
Next place the concoction on a low heat (just below a boil) and cook down allowing the peels to absorb the sugar. This will take several hours. Make sure you are stirring the pieces around and recoating them in the syrup as it thickens or else you'll end up with an inconsistent flavor. Stirring also helps the water evaporate quicker as it gives it a higher surface area. Be very vigilant toward the end with stirring and reducing the heat or else your syrup will begin to boil and possibly burn. Once there is only about a half to a quarter cup of syrup just coating the bottom of the pan, kill the heat and start to take the peels out and coat them in sugar. I recommend placing the pan at an angle to allow the syrup to pool to one end of the pan and keep the peels on the other end. Work while everything is still warm or else the syrup will start to thicken and crystallize. With the peels rolled in sugar place them on a cooling rack to dry for a day or so. Enjoy.
Citrus candy in a jar awaitng consumption

For the final use, take the orange tinged syrup left in the pan, add some soy sauce, to taste, and thin with water. The thinner the sauce the more cook time it will allow, I ended up with about 1.5 cups if I had to estimate. As it is, the sauce will impart a very light orange flavor, but you can make it more intense by adding orange juice at this stage. Cook up some rice, and a few chicken breasts. Once the chicken is fully cooked add the sauce to the pan and let the chicken simmer, turning occasionally to coat. Remove when the sauce becomes darker and thickens to a syrup again, should take about 5-10 minutes. Serve using the remaining sauce in the pan to add to the rice if you wish.
Yummy orange chicken and rice!
I pieced this string of ideas from a number of sources, the citrus cleaner has appeared on multiple blogs and Pintrest, and I don’t know who invented it, the candied citrus rind is an old recipe I had never heard of until I saw a brief mention of it in this blog by the Green Cheapskate. Further research (simplyrecipes) showed that the candy often turned out bitter and with a less gummy texture unless the peels were soaked in salt water or alcohol. I thought that the vinegar soak might have a similar effect, and it did! Though I do plan to make that citrus infused vodka I heard mention of as an alternate precandy soak! Then the chicken I kind of made up on the spot when I saw I had left over syrup that I didn't want to throw it out.
Now, go eat some oranges!


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