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3 uses for citrus peel {that you can start doing now}


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Long lists intimidate me. I’m skeptical of their fancy promises. 101 places you can hide your elf on the shelf! 500 uses for dryer lint! 28 ways you can improve your routines!

More like 28 ways you didn’t know you were doing it wrong all along.

A few years back, I heard I wasn’t supposed to put many citrus peels in the compost. I’ve since learned that old rule isn’t true, but it sparked my interest in finding other ways to use the peels. I looked for how-tos on the interwebs. One suggested I should keep my peels in a giant bag in the chest freezer. Good idea! But wait, she wasn’t finished. Then, when the bag was full, I should put all the peels on a baking sheet and dehydrate them in a warm oven for many hours. THEN, I should grind those dehydrated peels into powder, and only after all those steps could I turn them into a scouring scrub. Ain’t nobody got time for all that.

I’m not making any promises or offering long lists today. I’ll just tell you the three ways I store my leftover citrus peels right when I’m cutting up the fruit. It will take you thirty seconds longer than tossing them in the garbage, and I promise (okay, one promise) you’ll be glad you have them on hand.

3 uses for citrus peel 
{that you can start doing now}:
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1. Citrus salt
method acquired via local kitchen

This method could not be easier.

  • Using a microplane or the small holes of your box grater, grate zest (lemon, orange, grapefruit, and lime all work well) over a bowl. 
  • Add the same amount of salt as zest and rub it through your fingers until it is combined. 
  • Set it on the counter (no lid yet) for a few days until it looks dry enough. 
  • Store it for up to a year in an airtight container. I put some of it in an old glass spice container that’s been washed and dried, and I store the rest in the freezer. 

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Uses: Citrus salt is great on fish or stirred into a soup near the end of cooking. You can also bake with it in recipes that call for similar amounts of zest and salt (e.g. for recipes that call for 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. zest, use 2 tsp. of citrus salt. Not rocket science).

2. Frozen peels

I discovered this method when I stuck some peels in a bag in the freezer, not sure what I wanted to do with them but not wanting to throw them away. Then that week I needed zest for a baked good and peel for a cocktail but had no fresh fruit around. Et voila, a strategy is born!

  • Either peel zest off the orange the way you would an apple (what I do when I’m juicing the orange), or else go down the sides with your knife removing both the zest and pith (what I do when I’m cutting orange segments for the girls). 
  • Flash freeze the peels on a baking sheet so they don’t stick together.
  • Store the frozen peels in a ziptop freezer bag (vacuum sealed if you have one) for up to one year.

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Uses: I use the peeled zest in cocktails when I have no fresh fruit on hand (no need to defrost, it’s great as is), and I zest the frozen pith slices when a recipe calls for zest but not salt (such as an already salted butter that I want to add zest to).
3. Citrus vinegar
method acquired via Crunchy Betty

This method is also simple but involves the longest wait time. Once you’ve juiced your fruit and the halves are sitting there, or if you have some of the pith slices from #2 above,

  • Add peels to a QT Ball jar (or leftover spaghetti jar). 
  • Optional: Add any other disinfecting herbs (rosemary, mint, and lemon balm are my favorites).
  • Fill the jar with white vinegar. 
  • Put it in a cool dark place like in the cabinet under your kitchen sink. 
  • Leave it there for two weeks. 

Then…

  • Strain out the peels and store vinegar in that same QT jar or another airtight glass jar.
  • For window cleaner: Dilute to a 1:1 ratio with water and pour it into a spray bottle.
  • For cleaner for countertops, bathrooms, and floors: Add a few drops of essential oils (lemon, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil, which is antibacterial and antifungal) or Dr. Bronner’s soap (my favorite scents are rose and the original peppermint) to make it a more powerful cleaner. 

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Uses: As I said above, use it to clean windows, countertops, etc. The vinegar smell is still there but it isn’t nearly as strong. If you ever use a vinegar rinse on your hair (note: I wouldn’t pour it over your head, just dip your ends in a mixture of 1 Tbs. vinegar to 1 c. water), you can try this fruity-smelling alternative to apple cider vinegar.

Author’s note: This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop and Real Food Wednesday

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