Living in Southern Italy, I have access to lemons. A LOT of lemons. And luckily most of them are organic, so I make sure to take advantage of the fragrant peels. One of the things I love to do with them is to dry them out and pulverize them, making them last longer and making it possible to use them in different ways. I’ve written numerous times about my favorite way to prepare them. I first scrub the fruit with a vegetable brush and dry it. I then peel it with a potato peeler. The white pith beneath the colored peel is bitter and is generally not used. As the best time of year for citrus fruits is the winter, I take advantage of the heat from our radiators by placing small ceramic or metal containers with citrus peels (or also herbs) on top of the radiators. After a few days to a week, the peels are well-dried and ready to be made into a powder in a food processor.
A lot of people have asked me if I could suggest any other ways to dry the peels. I knew that there were other ways, but I hadn’t actually tried any of them myself. Until this summer, that is, when I discovered an incredibly quick and easy way to make sun dried lemon peels!
We have a south-facing balcony without any buildings or trees to block the sun. This means that in the summer, that balcony gets boiling hot. As I had a request for my Lemon-Rosemary flavored salt and I needed some more lemon powder, I placed my fresh peels on a black baking sheet and placed them in the full-on summer sun. In just a few hours (which you can see by the changing shadow) those peels got dried to a crisp and were all ready to get pulverized! Since then, I’ve been doing this trick with all of my peels and, as long as the sun’s out, it’s a no-fail method! Just remember to pick up the baking sheet with a potholder if you have delicate hands because it will be pretty damn hot!
I’ve only used this method with lemon peels, but I’m positive that it’ll work great with herbs and other things, too. So what can you used your dried citrus peels and herbs for? Well, you can put dried lemon peels in your tea, for example. Or you can pulverize them and store them in a little jar to sprinkle on your plate if you have kids who refuse to eat anything with little bits of extraneous things in it, or just use them in your regular cooking.
You can make flavored salt, like my beloved Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic flavored salt.
I sometimes use dried herbs in my homemade tooth powder and I bet it would be delicious to make one with some lemon peel powder, too!
But even without drying them, there are loads of ways to use citrus peels! Grate some fresh citrus peel into your next batch of banana bread! Or make some arancello (orange liquor) or limoncello (lemon liquor)! (Boy, do I cringe at some of my old photos!)
Or enjoy the flavor of citrus year round with salt-preserved lemons!
Even if you don’t like the taste of lemon or citrus fruit or you just don’t like to cook, you still have no excuse for tossing out lemon peels if you happen to have them. They are wonderful de-greasing agents, so you can rub oil- or fat-covered pots or dishes with used peels to get of most of the gunk before washing them, or just stick them in your dishwasher to get your kitchen things extra clean!
Question of the day: How do you use lemons?
As you can see, I use lemons a lot and love their taste! (Actually, that reminds me that I have a lemonade recipe that I should share!) But I really dislike lemon juice in salad. For some reason it tastes excessively bitter to me mixed with lettuce and salt and I can barely stand it in my mouth! Does that happen to anyone else? I really can’t understand it!