Whether you have tons of lemons and limes around or just a few, it’s easy to preserve the outer skin, or zest, for future use in baking and cooking. Did you ever realize how expensive it can be to purchase a jar of this stuff? It’s steep. That’s why I make my own.
I had a ton of citrus fruits left over from my four cooking demonstrations at this year’s ISNA convention- well over 100 because I used the fruits not only in the recipes I demonstrated, but also as an all natural table display. It was beautiful, but they wouldn’t last long that way.
It took some effort, but I zested nearly all of the lemons and limes in one night. By myself. You really have to understand what a difference dried citrus peel can make to a cake, cookies, salads and even meat stews. Once you use it, you might also find yourself zesting away. Trust me.
Ingredients & Tools
- whole citrus fruits (lemon, lime, oranges work best), preferably organic
- citrus zester (see picture)
- Wash and thoroughly dry each fruit. This is important because the more dry the citrus is when it is zested, the easier it will dry overall. I like to spray all of my produce with white vinegar because it is an all-natural, non-toxic disinfectant. (For more all-natural cleaning solutions, click here.)
- Remove the outer skin of each fruit, a process also known as zesting. Be careful not to go so far that you reach the white part underneath the colorful skin or you will be grabbing a bitter part of the peel.
- Place the fresh peels on a large baking sheet and spread apart as much as possible. If you are zesting different types of fruits at the same time, keep them separate so that it’s easier to have a choice about what you’d like to add to your recipes once they’re dry.
- If you have a very dry environment, you can generally leave lime peels out, uncovered, overnight. By morning they should be completely dried out. For all other fruits, you will have to sun-dry or bake them on the lowest setting of your oven. Bake at 170º (my lowest oven temperature) for about two hours. If you live in a very dry climate, place the peels on a baking sheet, add a cheesecloth over the top of the peels and leave out in a location with full sun for 2-4 hours.
- Allow to cool and store in glass jars until ready to use.