Having a plethora of citrus is definitely not something to complain about, especially when you’re in the throes of winter. The bright and fresh fruit can really make my day when it’s cloudy and yucky outside! I am lucky enough to have in-laws that live in Florida who send us wonderful oranges and grapefruit every year around this time. Not only that, but my friend and fellow blogger Angi over at SchneiderPeeps in Texas sent me an amazing box full of juicy Meyer lemons. So, truth be told, we were literally swimming in citrus! The lemons were ripe and ready to go and I was afraid they would go bad before we could get to all of them, so I started doing a little research on how I could use them up. Of course, that led me into a rabbit hole of all the super awesome ways that I can use and preserve citrus. I tried a few and researched a few more that I want to try someday. These are the best of what I came up with, 12 ways to use and preserve citrus.
12 Ways to Use & Preserve Citrus
This seemed like a no brainer to Joel and I, especially since the lemons were about as juicy as can be. Joel’s Grandmother, who lives in Florida, always has frozen lemon and lime juice in ice cube trays in her freezer for whenever she may need it. In fact, she uses them to make the best margaritas you’ve ever had!
We actually decided to zest the lemons first (with our trusty Microplane, gotta have one!), and then combine the zest with the juice before freezing. This creates little zesty lemon ice cubes of goodness. Trust me, you want in on this!
Here is more about freezing lemons from SchneiderPeeps. I especially love her idea of just putting whole lemons in the freezer. Preserving citrus doesn’t get any more simple than that!
Although I haven’t tried this yet, trying to preserve citrus slices in the dehydrator (this is my favorite dehydrator) would be next on my list. They will last forever and can be rehydrated in a glass of water or tea (you know, to keep the scurvy away), or ground up and added to sugar or spice blends. Not only that, but they have a gorgeous transparency that is pretty to look at. Here are a couple of posts on dehydrating citrus:
- All About Lemons (Dehydrating) from SchneiderPeeps
- Dehydrating Oranges from Grace Garden and Homestead
Yes, of course! My favorite way of preserving food has to show its face. If you ever see recipes that call for preserved lemons, what they really mean are fermented lemons. They are considered somewhat of a delicacy, but are actually super easy to make (as most fermented foods are). All you really need are juicy lemons and salt. I decided to give it a try.
There are many methods for this, but I like the one that has you cut the lemons into quarters, but leave the end attached so that it looks like a lemon flower. Put a sprinkle of salt in the bottom of your jar, then put some salt on the cut part of the lemon and put it in the jar, cut side down. Press it hard to get as much juice out of it as possible. Then repeat with more salt and more lemons until the jar is full and the lemons are covered with juice. You may need to add more juice from another lemon in order to completely cover, but mine were so juicy that I didn’t need to.
I did use a little weight to keep the lemons under the brine. Then cover loosely and let sit for a couple of weeks, shaking periodically. Store in the fridge once fermented to your liking. Mine are still fermenting, but smell amazing! I can’t wait to use them. Here are some more recipes for fermented and salt preserved lemons:
- Preserved Lemons – Yes you can make them at home from Joybilee Farm
- How to Preserve Lemons from A Return to Simplicity
- Fermenting Lemons from SchneiderPeeps
- How to Preserve Lemons – Using the Whole Lemon from Timber Creek Farm
- Salted Citrus from Attainable Sustainable
Canning and Marmalade
I recently made orange marmalade for the first time and it was so much fun! I felt like a grandma in the kitchen with my friends as we sliced and boiled down the citrus and sugar to make this old fashioned treat. It’s these moments that I feel like a real human being, that I’m actually doing something. Marmalading is a worthwhile endeavor in my book!
Marmalade is usually made with citrus, but can be made with a number of different fruits and/or vegetables. Besides making marmalade, you can also water bath can orange slices straight up. Here are some marmalade recipes:
- Clementine Rum Marmalade from Homespun Seasonal Living
- Lemon Ginger Zucchini Marmalade from Preparedness Mama
- Tangerine Ginger Jam from Attainable Sustainable
- Water Bath Canning Oranges from Grace Garden and Homestead
As a quick side note, did you know that you can make your own homemade pectin with citrus? This is something that I’ve got to try!
Make Citrus Curd
Curd is used in a similar way as marmalade or jam, but is made in a totally different way. It is a combination of any type of citrus juice, butter, eggs plus extra egg yolks, and sugar, all gently heated while stirring constantly to form a wonderful spread. Oh, and did I mention that it is amazingly delicious? I recently tried my hand at grapefruit curd and wasn’t disappointed!
Make Citrus Syrup
This is another method to preserve citrus that I’ve yet to try, but is at the top of my list. The process is quite simple, you basically just boil citrus juice and zest with sugar until it reduces down to a syrup. You can also infuse honey with citrus, which is a more natural alternative. Use citrus syrup in marinades, fancy cocktails, or on your morning pancakes!
- Ginger Citrus Syrup from Pixie’s Pocket
- Tangerine Syrup from Attainable Sustainable
- Lemon Infused Honey from Pixie’s Pocket
When life gives you lemons… well you know what to do. How about trying these three totally different, but healthy and great ways to make lemonade! You can use any citrus you want here, it doesn’t have to be lemons.
- Bubbly Probiotic Lemonade from Learning and Yearning
- Homemade Sports Drink – Make Switchel for Electrolytes from Joybilee Farm
- Canning Homemade Lemonade from Livin Lovin Farmin
Use the Peels
Save your rinds from any citrus and use them in a variety of ways. Candied citrus peels are a fun treat to make. If you don’t have a use for your peels right away, dry them either on a screen for small amounts or in a dehydrator for larger amounts.
They can then be used for many things, in a potpourri or for infusions (like my winter gin recipe). They can also be ground up and used in spice blends.
- Using Citrus Peels – A No Waste Solution from Homespun Seasonal Living
- How to Make Candied Citrus Peel from Food52
- Spicy Citrus Salt Blend from Pixie’s Pocket
- Homemade Lemon Powder from Daddykirbs
Make Limoncello (or Triple Sec)
I would love to try making this someday soon, maybe I’ll experiment with a lower sugar version as it’s often been too sweet for my taste. I love the idea of it though! You basically steep lemon rind (for limoncello) or orange rind (for triple sec) in a neutral spirit like vodka for several weeks, then add a simple sugar solution and drink up! I’m thinking making a lime version sounds pretty good right now. Here are a few recipes:
- Homemade Limoncello from Livin Lovin Farmin
- Limoncello Recipe Using Meyer Lemons from Joybilee Farm
- Tangerine Triple Sec from Attainable Sustainable
Make Lemon Extract
This is another form of alcohol infusion, just like the limoncello, but much more concentrated and without the sugar. The best part about homemade citrus extracts is that you can use them to make tasty citrus desserts!
- Make Your Own Lemon Extract from SchneiderPeeps
- How to Make Homemade Extracts from Common Sense Homesteading
- Lemons, Lemon Extract, and Lemon Crinkle Cookies from Timber Creek Farm
Make Citrus Desserts
On that note, let’s make dessert! I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love citrus desserts. I’m not even one who likes a whole lot of sweets, but if you offer me a lemon bar or one of these lemon lavender shortbread cookies I will not turn you down!
Many of these desserts will call for lemon (or other citrus) extract, and often times the zest as well. The more tart and lemony they are, the more I like them! In fact, I’ve been on the search for the perfect, super lemony and less sweet lemon bar, and I may have found just that in this first recipe:
- Really Lemony Lemon Bars (Reduced Sugar) from Farmgirl Fare
- Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake from Joybilee Farm
- Cranberry Lemon Drop Biscuits from SchneiderPeeps
- Lemon Coconut Macaroats from Homespun Seasonal Living
- Lemon Bars with Honey & Thyme a Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment Recipe
- Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies a Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment Recipe
- Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies a Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment Recipe
- Plum & Lemon Upside Down Cake a Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment Recipe
Make a Citrus Cleaner
This is the only real non food use that I have on this list, but it’s a good one. Did you know that you can infuse citrus rinds in vinegar to make an awesome, DIY, non-toxic cleaner? I had to give this one a try. After juicing a bunch of lemons, I put the rinds into a quart jar along with a cinnamon stick and a few whole cloves. Cover them with plain old white vinegar and let sit for a couple of weeks. Then strain and put into a spray bottle for easy use. That’s it!
Here are some more recipes for homemade citrus cleaners:
- Homemade Citrus Vinegar Cleaner from My Healthy Green Family
- Homemade Citrus Laundry Wash and Vinegar Cleaner from The Homestead Lady
- How to Make Thieves Vinegar from Scratch from Joybilee Farm
- DIY All Purpose Citrus Kitchen Cleaner from The Coastal Homestead
Whew! As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to use and preserve citrus. I actually thought about buying more so that I could try all of these recipes, but then thought better of it. I’ll just wait until life gives me more lemons… or limes or oranges or grapefruit! Then I’ll try whatever suits my fancy at the time. I hope all of this was helpful for you in the season of abundant citrus!