Stop! Before you toss that citrus rind in the trash or down the garbage disposal, we want you to consider the other uses that ingredient has. Often overlooked, the peel or zest is packed with flavor that can make a major impact on your food. But you’ll want to make sure that flavor stays zesty and not sour. When separating the rind from the rest of the fruit, you’ll want to avoid the white pith because it has a bitter taste. To get you saving your peels or using that zest, here are 7 recipes unlocking the flavor of the humble citrus rind.
1. Candied Lemon Peel
Whole Foods has the how-to for your basic candied lemon peel. It is recommended to look for lemons with thick skins, and this method is also how you could give a simple sugar candy coating to other citrus fruits — such as oranges and grapefruit.
- 8 organic lemons
- 5 cups sugar, divided
Directions: Cut the top and bottom off each lemon. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off pieces of the skin, cutting from top to bottom. Slice peels into 1/4-inch strips or leave in natural shaped pieces. Place peels in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Drain and repeat two more times. Mix 4 cups sugar in with 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Add lemon peels and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer lemon peels for 1 hour over low heat. Remove from liquid.
Spread remaining sugar evenly on a baking sheet. Roll lemon peels in sugar and place on cooling racks to dry, about 3 to 5 hours.
2. Citrus Zest Pasta
The zest of citrus fruits can add a bit of zing to your pasta dishes, like in David Rocco’s spaghetti with lemon sauce from the Cooking Channel. It will make four servings of fresh, flavorful pasta.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 clove garlic, for rubbing
- 2 lemons (zest of 1 lemon, juice of 2 lemons)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
Directions: Place the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and stir immediately to prevent the strands from sticking. Cook the spaghetti to al dente. Cut the garlic in half and rub the exposed area along the interior of a large serving bowl. The raw garlic flavor will coat the inside surface of the serving bowl. Discard the garlic. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil while whisking. Whisk until the ingredients have emulsified. Mix in the salt and Parmigiano cheese.
When the spaghetti is al dente, drain and add to the serving bowl. Mix the pasta with the lemon sauce to coat evenly. Sprinkle the pasta dish with Parmigiano cheese, fresh parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.
3. Chili-Lime Infused Tequila
Martha Stewart‘s chili-lime tequila adds a different kind of kick to your tequila. Drink the spiced up tequila can with seltzer, or in a margarita, and adapt the principle to other liquors. Citrus peels can infuse gin or vodka as well — but you’ll probably want to leave out the jalapeños.
- 2 small jalapeños, halved lengthwise
- 1 strip lime zest
- 750 milliliters silver tequila
Directions: Combine ingredients in a clean one-liter jar with a lid. Store in the refrigerator and shake daily for 2 days until infused, then strain and discard solids.
4. Orange Butter
Flavored butters are easy to make at home, and this orange butter from AllRecipes.com is no exception. You’ll be spreading it on biscuits, toast, pancakes, dinner rolls — pretty much anything that you want to give a slightly sweet citrusy taste to.
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Directions: In a small bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Mix in honey and orange zest.
5. Grapefruit-Honey Syrup
You can make simple syrups with your citrus peel, like the lemon syrup in Laura Calder’s recipe. But, it can also be jazzed up beyond that, like in the following Southern Living syrup. The syrups are perfect for flavoring drinks, or sweetening up frostings.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 (2- x 4-inch) grapefruit rind strips
- Rind from 1 lime, cut into strips
- 15 fresh mint sprigs
Directions: Boil sugar and water, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add grapefruit juice and remaining ingredients, and cool completely. Cover and chill 24 hours. Strain syrup; discard solids.
Sugar isn’t your only option for candying your citrus peels, though. Chocolate is another way to make a candied confection, and when oranges are used, you’ll be making orangettes. This recipe from French Food on About.com will yield about 10 or 12 orangettes, and can easily be doubled or tripled.
- 1 large navel orange
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
Directions: Using a peeler, cut 3-inch long, 3/4-inch wide strips of orange peel from the orange. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and simmer the orange peels for 10 minutes. Drain the peels, rinse them with cold water, and boil them in fresh water for an additional 10 minutes; repeat this process 1 more time.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reduced in volume just a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the orange peels and continue simmering the mixture for 15 minutes. Transfer the candied orange peel to a wire drying rack and allow it to sit undisturbed for 45 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the 2/3 of the length of each candied orange strip in the chocolate, leaving 1/2 of the peel exposed, and place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.
7. Citrus Salt
Virtually all of your foods can get a little bit zestier when you sprinkle a dash of Chow‘s citrus salt into the recipe, or on your dish. Try it on chicken or fish, rim your margarita glasses with it, or put a dash on plain rice or pasta to add new layers of flavor.
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated, lightly packed lemon zest (from about 2 medium lemons)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated, lightly packed lime zest (from about 2 medium limes)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated, lightly packed orange zest (from about 2 medium oranges)
Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and rub the salt and zests between your fingers to distribute the citrus’s oils. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a plate and let it dry uncovered at room temperature overnight. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 months.