Drying Citrus (without dehydrator) Firsties

Welcome to my final (for now) installment of food drying firsties where I'll share my successes (and flops) drying citrus!

Sorry for the long delay with this post. School, work, life gets so busy sometimes it takes catching a long bout of pneumonia for me to hold still long enough to finish this post!

Although it would be more energy efficient to use a dehydrator, I’m a newly married college student. I don't have one. But now a dehydrator is definitely on my list as, For the first time, I try my hand at drying lemons and oranges!

Although not as satisfyingly easy as baking apple chips, drying citrus is so rewarding when you get it right!

They’re beautiful, fragrant, and festive in any season!

Citrus was initially the first thing I tried drying, and I had at first attempted using a sunny windowsill during the day, and oven on warm with the door propped open a few inches in the evening. I would have thought this summer weather and climate (hot, dry, mountain altitude/slightly desert) to be perfect accommodations for drying citrus, but it dried the rind and pulp membranes so slowly that the flesh remained moist and just asking to mold.
First attempt. Pretty, but a bit too thick and juicy.

I moved on to my other drying projects (apples and sage) for a day or two and kept an eye out for some different approaches that seemed more promising. After discovering my delightful Mandoline slicer and having such improved success with my apples, I came back to my citrus with renewed hope. Ok, so the Mandoline will just chew on your orange, unfortunately.  I didn’t let that get me down, I knew I was on the right track! Maybe my confidence was boosted by the success with my apples and sage, or maybe I just picked firmer, more oblong oranges, but I used the same porcelain knife I’d used in the beginning and was able to cut thinner wedges that just looked right.

...If you're wondering what I mean by porcelain knife
What You Need:
-firm oranges more oblong in shape
-firm lemons
-paper or teatowels (for dabbing up extra juice from your slices)
-your favorite slicing knife
-cooling rack and cookie sheet
-wood spoon
optional cinnamon spice mixture of your choice

What I learned:
-Quite possibly most important: don’t dry all your oranges at once! Allow room for learning from your experiments, so you don’t automatically think it’s too hard “if at first you don’t succeed”.

Bake oranges and lemons separately as they behave slightly different in their temp/timing needs. thi also separates the flavors if you're going to put any spices on your oranges.
I originally combined my oranges and lemons but the smells are richer and better separated, and, as I said before, they cook a little differently.
Pick firm lemons and firm oranges more oval in shape than round. They don’t have to be so ripe as you might think, (I thought that would boost the flavor and scent throw but I’m now convinced that just made them less workable because of the extra sugar and juice and weaker structure)

Finally, the process that works!

-Preheat oven, or, if you’ve just finished baking apples, lower your oven temp to just about 200 degrees. (you’ll have to keep an eye to get a feel for the proper temp for your climate)

-Slice your oranges and lemons thin enough so that they are fairly transparent. Ive learned that there is a fine line between unstably thin and un-dryably thick! (I made up some words there, roll with it)

-place a few slices on a paper towel at a time, fold paper towel over the top, and press somewhat firmly to soak up extra juice.

(Optional for oranges)- rub your cinnamon or cinna-sugar-nutmeg mixture onto each slice (both sides, just one, I don’t think it really matters)

-Space them evenly on your trusty cooling rack/cookie sheet combo

-place them in oven, propping slightly ajar with wooden spoon

-set your timer for 15 minutes to begin with and inspect your progress. You’ll see that if the flesh is beginning to brown on one side of any slice that it is baking or drying too quickly in which case turn it down a bit.
These are fragile so you’ll need to babysit these every 15-20 minutes so they’re juuust right. For oranges, you’ll know when the edges are slightly shriveled and the flesh slightly darker and scaly to the touch, (no juicy, pulpy spots). if your lemons darken that's ok as long as the color is fairly uniform throughoutthe batch. Voila! you did it!


I love the stained glass affect these get when placed in glass dishes to catch the light.
I’ll edit later to share how I use them in other projects but for now, I’d say to store them in freezer Ziploc bags (after they’ve cooled and you’ve admired them properly of course).
Zip them locs almost all the way, leaving space to suck out the air, and pop them in the freezer till you’re ready to use them!
Speaking of using them for other projects, of course I’m thinking of using them in sachets but the how of that is an overwhelming wealth of possibilities! I’m thinking dipping them in wax with some citrus/vanilla/spice fragrance combo and, if I don’t use them all in sachets, I might string them up with cloves in the center for some accent garland, or simply display them as potpourri in a little dish on the counter. I’m excited!
This concludes my adventures with drying decorative, scent-sational foods! … for now.
If you haven’t already, read my related posts where I attempt for the first time and share my success at drying apples and sage!

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