It’s the season for sweet blood oranges, headily scented lemons and juicy limes; perfect for fresh morning orange juice and lemon and sugar pancakes. But what happens to all those squeezed citrus halves? Rather than chuck them in the bin, preserve all that zingy flavour instead. From orange cordial to DIY kitchen cleaner, here are some zero waste hacks to inspire you.
Photography: Natalé Towell.
Lemons, limes and oranges have become year-round staples in our kitchens, but short of using them for their juice, and the occasional zest, we’re missing an opportunity to make the most of all the fantastic flavour left in their skins. Thankfully, there are many ways you can turn your leftover lemon peel and squeezed orange halves into flavour-bursting ingredients.
One way is to shove your spent lemon halves into a jar, spooning sea salt into each half and pushing it all down so it’s nice and compact. Seal and leave it in a cupboard for a couple of months to let the salt work its magic, drawing out the lemons’ moisture and creating a salty brine that will break down the skins into perfectly edible, concentrated bombs of flavour. They taste just like the preserved lemons you can buy and add a potent hit to all sorts of salads, dips and Middle-Eastern style stews.
A step-by-step guide to preserved lemons that will work equally as well with juiced or un-juiced lemons.
You can also follow the same salt-preserving rule using oranges instead, adding spices for interesting twists on the original.
Tangy citrus cordial
Another way to make the most of your citrus flavour is to turn your squeezed lemon or orange halves into homemade cordial. You can use a single variety of citrus (to make a straight-up orange squash, for example) or a mix of a few. Limes, grapefruits, blood oranges, lemons will all work here. Put your halves in a bowl or jar and add the same weight in sugar. Leave it for a few hours or overnight and you’ll end up with a tangy-sweet syrup that you can dilute with water for a nice twist on plain H20, use as a syrup for cakes, cocktails or as a zingy burst drizzled over your morning porridge. Find the guide here.
Infused teas and oils, homemade marinades… the list goes on…
Drying your peel is also another good way to preserve their flavour. Before squeezing out the juice, use a veg peeler to strip the zest from your oranges and lemons (you can also save clementine peelings), then dry them out at room temperature or in a low oven.
Use your dried peel to flavour tea or to infuse gin or vodka, and even olive oil. It’ll work equally great as a marinade – when combined with herbs and garlic – for meat and fish. Alternatively, you can just dry out the squeezed halves just as they are (including the pith), then blitz them into powder to use in cakes and biscuits.
Kitchen cleaner: citrus peel to clean your house?
Yup. Add spent orange or lemon halves (and any herbs or spices, such as rosemary or cloves) to distilled vinegar and leave it for a few weeks to let those bright citrus smells take the edge off the vinegar smell. This is a top tip from Farmblog contributor, Lizzie King, who says “many common cleaning solutions include toxins that we don’t want our kids licking up or breathing in. Dilute 50:50 citrus vinegar with water in a spray bottle and clean all the grease anywhere. It’s also a disinfectant. And it smells delicious, without the vinegar whiff. You can use this on the hob, cooker, sink, table chopping boards, anything greasy and grimey”.
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Spring Cleaners 🍋🍊🌱☀️ So loving my new stash of citrus aroma degreasing kitchen cleaners. Suit the sunshine right now too. Made from lemon, orange and blood orange hulls after I’ve used them. Sat in white vinegar for three weeks and the limonene that’s drawn out is nature’s elbow grease. Decanting mine tomorrow and I’ll put it on stories as I know lots of you are getting into this too! I don’t know who I am anymore. #notanaturalcleaner #actuallytheseare #zerowaste #homemadecleaners #cleaning #nocrapcleaners
Got more ideas for using up your leftover citrus peel? Comment below!