12 Ways to Use and Preserve Citrus Fruits


* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

There are so many ways to use and preserve lemons, oranges, grapefruits and limes. Learn how to preserve citrus fruits and use them in creative new ways!

When it comes to citrus, we often waste more of it than we actually use. We might squeeze a slice of lemon or lime in our drink or over our food, or it might even just act as decoration on our glass before being discarded. Oranges and grapefruits tend to get eaten, so their flesh is usually not wasted, but most people rarely think to use their peels.

But citrus fruits are surprisingly versatile and easy to preserve. And they can be used in all sorts of creative ways that you may not have discovered yet.

Plus, citrus fruits also contain amazingly beneficial vitamins that can help heal us when we’re feeling sick and rundown. So it never hurts to have some on hand for when we really needs it.

 

Can’t I just buy fruit from the store when I need it?

While most people run to the store every time they need something, you and I are not most people. Oh no friend… We are modern homesteaders.

We’re a special breed, and one thing that sets us apart is that we are always thinking about preparing for the future and about stocking up when the things are abundant (and cheap!)

When it comes to citrus fruits, if you live in a place where you can grow them yourself, then you’ll probably have more than you can handle fresh when they’re in season. Knowing how to preserve them will help ensure nothing goes to waste.

And if you can’t grow them yourself? Well then you can stock up when they’re in season and on sale and use them all year long!

 

Always Be Prepared with Citrus On Hand

Now, technically you could run to the store and pay top dollar every time you want a lemon or lime, but then again, what if the store shelves were bare? 

I remember one season a few years ago when limes were in very low supply and cost a fortune due to drought in Mexico and wars over who was controlling the lime trade. (Yes, if you rely on grocery-store fruit and vegetables, you are at the mercy of everything from global climate issues to trade deals to gangs and politics). 

Knowing how to preserve citrus fruit and always having some on hand means that you won’t be without in your home regardless of what’s happening outside your door. And that is really the ultimate goal when it comes to being prepared.

But I think the best part about using and preserving every part of citrus fruit is that it’s incredibly easy to do and the end products are super versatile and good for use in everything from food and drinks to body products and household cleaners.

So grab your fruit bowl and a few basic kitchen tools and let’s get to work with this list of 12 ways to use and preserve your citrus fruits.

 

12 Ways to Use & Preserve Citrus Fruits

Before you get started, always try your best to begin with organic fruits (and scrub them clean!) While this isn’t imperative for every recipe or use, it’s especially important when using the peels for consumption. And if you can afford the little bit extra, organic is always the best option.

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

 

1. Save the zest

To zest, either grate or thinly peel the outer layer of the peel of the citrus fruit with a fine grater, a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler. Avoid the bitter, white pith. You can either use the fresh zest or preserve it for later by letting it dry.

To dry, spread zest in a thin layer over a baking tray and leave to air dry in an area with low humidity. Once dry, transfer to a jar or other small airtight container and store in a cool, dark place.

Substitute dried zest for fresh zest in any recipe that calls for it or add it to homemade bathroom cleaner.

The zest will keep for a long time, but may begin to lose potency after a few months.

 

2. Dry the peels

Dried peels can be used in so many ways, from making tea to medicine to bath and body products, so they are definitely worth saving! Just like with the zest, make sure to buy organic and wash well before use. Then, when you peel your citrus fruit to use the flesh, save the peels by breaking them up into smaller pieces and drying them for later use.

You can air dry your peels, use a dehydrator or bake them on the lowest setting in your oven. Once dried, transfer peels to a jar or container and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

 

3. Make a citrus cleaner

Another super simple way to use up your citrus peels is to make a vinegar infusion that can be used as an all-purpose cleaner. Just take your fresh peels and pop them in a large jar (I use quart-sized Mason jars) and completely cover with white vinegar. I usually have a jar going so that anytime anyone eats an orange or uses a lemon or lime, I just pop the peel (and whatever flesh remains) in the jar. 

Let sit for a few weeks (I usually wait at least 6 weeks), then strain the vinegar into a bottle and discard the peels. Store in a cool, dark place. Dilute with an equal amount of water and transfer to a spray bottle when ready to use. 

Use on countertops, floors, sinks, tubs and toilets and just about any other surface. Just don’t use it on marble as vinegar can stain marble.

 

4. Preserve the juice

You can juice citrus fruits and store in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for several months. If freezing, pour fresh-squeezed juice into ice cube trays and, once frozen, transfer to freezer bags.

While I have read that it’s possible to can lemon and grapefruit juice, orange juice can be bitter when canned and I’ve never seen a recipe for home-canned lime juice. I recommend the freezer method for long-term preservation, but if you do any citrus fruit canning I would love to hear about how it turned out! Let me know in the comments section.

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

 

5. Dehydrate sliced citrus

A food dehydrator is great for drying because it significantly speeds up the process over air drying and won’t burn your fruits.

To dehydrate citrus, slice fruit into thin (roughly ¼-inch thick) rounds and discard seeds. Place in a single layer on dehydrator tray and dry at 135ºF for about 6-10 hours (depending on your dehydrator and the thickness of your fruits). Once dry, store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place. Rehydrate slices and add to various dishes (or simply add them as-is to dishes with liquid or sauce and bake), or add dried slices to homemade potpourri. 

My favourite way to use dried lemon and orange slices is to grind them up and make this Homemade Vitamin C Powder. I mix it with hot water and a little honey when I’m sick or feeling rundown.

 

6. Make canned preserves

Turn your extra citrus fruits into marmalade (which uses both the juice and the peels) or make citrus curd (lemon curd is the most popular and it is damn delicious!). 

Note: Lemon curd (or any type of curd) needs to be stored in the fridge because of the eggs and dairy. You can water bath can curd and store in the fridge for up to 3 months or simply store in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks.

Of course, there are lots of other preserves and canning recipes that feature citrus fruits. Check out the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for tons of great recipes!

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

 

7. Candy the peels

Candied citrus peels do use a fair amount of sugar, but they are still more nutritious than store-bought candy. They’re also super easy to make. 

First, zest the citrus peel into large chunks using a peeler or a pairing knife. Next, put one cup of peels into a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain and then repeat the process two more times. Then, heat a 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of water until boiling. Add peel to sugar-water and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the peels with a slotted spoon, dust with a little more sugar and let air dry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dry in a dehydrator.

Once completely dry, transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.

 

8. Make a citrus extract

Make a citrus peel extract by combining fresh or dried citrus peels with vodka. Place peels in a glass jar (I use pint or quart-sized Mason jars), and cover with vodka. Place in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking occasionally. The vodka will begin to turn the colour of the citrus peel.

Taste the extract after a few weeks and if you’re happy with the flavour, strain and transfer liquid to an airtight bottle. If you would prefer a stronger extract (or if it still tastes too “boozey”) let it sit for a while longer, checking on it every week or two.

This is very shelf stable as the vodka acts as a preservative. Once you have your extract you can use it in baking, your home medicine cabinet or even use it in place of regular vodka or witch hazel in homemade room spray.

 

9. Make infused citrus oil

Oil infused with citrus peels can be used to make all sorts of scrumptious body products, including citrus sugar scrub, soaps and body butters. Or use it to add flavour to homemade salsa dressings!

To make, use dried citrus peels (the water content in fresh peels can turn the oil rancid). Place dried peels in a jar and cover with oil. Place in a cool, dark place and let sit for 4-6 weeks or longer. Strain and store in an airtight bottle.

 

10. Feed citrus fruits to your livestock

Chickens, pigs, goats, sheep and even cows can benefit from a little citrus in their diet. While you should take care not to feed livestock too much citrus, adding a little bit into their diet can be good for them.

Citrus is full of vitamins and the essential oils in the peels contain antimicrobial properties that keep livestock healthy.

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

 

11. Add citrus peels to your compost

Citrus peels are a great addition to your compost as they provide beneficial nutrients and their strong smell can help to keep scavengers at bay. The peels do take a little longer than other fruits to break down, so it helps if you break them into smaller pieces first.

While adding citrus to your compost is a wise idea, you may run into some problems if you are vermicomposting. Worms are not fond of citrus, so they won’t eat them. Keep citrus fruits to your traditional compost pile and reap the benefits in nutrient-rich soil for your garden.

Learn how to preserve citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes and have them on hand whenever you need them. #preservecitrus #preservelemons #preserveoranges #citrusrecipes

 

12. Freeze citrus fruits whole

If you don’t have the time to deal with processing your citrus fruits, just stick them in the freezer whole! Although you won’t want to use the peels from these fruits when they thaw, they can still be juiced at a later date. You can even heat them up in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until they warm up, and this helps their juices to flow better.

I love that this method requires zero processing, however I personally prefer other methods because I tend to forget about them in the freezer and I try to use the microwave as little as possible, so it takes a bit of forethought if I want to use frozen citrus fruit. But some people swear by using this method. You’ll never know what works for you until you try.

 

How to Use Preserved Citrus

Once you’ve created a few of the above ingredients, you can use them in your cooking or add them to all sorts of home and body products. Since citrus fruits (especially lemons) cut through grease and grime and have antibacterial properties, they work especially well in homemade cleaners.

So there you have it! Even though citrus fruits are often thought of as being one of the more difficult things to preserve, they are actually quite versatile and can be used in so many different ways.

What do you usually do with your extra citrus fruits? Have you tried any of these preservation methods?

Let me know in the comments below!

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂

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HOMESTEADING
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4 Comments

  1. nancy e stone

    I made the lemon and salt combination and I’ve had it for about 4 months. I noticed the juice is real thick . Are they still good. I know their real salty. I’m going to freeze them and put them through my new “ ice creamie “ and make a thick slurry. Wish me luck. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Jody

    An old Florida thing is you take a cup of lime or lemon juice add a tablespoon full of salt. Let it sit for a month. I like to keep mine in the refrigerator but some people leave it out. use it as a condiment on fish or meat.

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Oh that’s an interesting idea. I’ve never heard of that. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Malinda

    This was a huge help! Didn’t know I could freeze the whole fruit. Love the juice in ice cube tray tip too. We just bought several citrus trees.
    Thank you very much

    Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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If the concept of a bug out bag is new to you, have a watch through this video and check out this article on 15 Emergency Preparedness Items You Need to Have Packed and Ready to Go: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/15-emergency-preparedness-items-you-need-packed-ready-to-go/

Also, if getting more prepared for anything and everything from a power outage to a natural disaster to a medical emergency to a man made disaster like a war or a cyber attack is a goal of yours, be sure to check out the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, which is packed with great advice on emergency preparedness for any situation. (Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com)

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I’d also love to hear from you! What are you doing to prepare and/or what skills and resources would you recommend that everyone acquire now before it’s too late?

Comment below 👇
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(Quote in the reel by Mike Fitzgerald, “Rolling With the Punches,” Modern Homesteading Magazine | Issue 29 | Fall 2022).

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I consider myself an optimistic realist: I hope for the best and I live fully and freely in the moment, but I prepare for the future accordingly based on what I can see unfolding in our world. And honestly, I find this “sweet spot” to be incredibly empowering.

This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

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Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

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I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

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#trudeaumustgo

(Special thanks to fellow 🇨🇦 homesteader @meggarlandd for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this:)
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Imagine not just the lights going out, but all power, all digital communication and information. Would you be prepared?

A lot of us THINK we’re prepared for a grid down situation, but unless you’re already living off grid, you might not realize how dependent on technology we really are!

In the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, contributor Ashley Constance of @dirtypawshomestead and @alittleselfreliant shares her experience voluntarily going without power for the day, and what she and her husband, Shawn learned from their grid down experiment.

You might be surprised at the things they discovered and missed on their prep list, and it might prompt you to reevaluate whether you’re ready in case the grid goes down, or even just Google 😱

Check out the full story in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine!

Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com

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The other day when I had a few minutes to spare, I was out in the garden doing a little work when my neighbour said hi over the fence.

I lamented to her about how busy we’ve been and how hard it’s been to keep on top of this year. Very sincerely, she replied “wait until you have another one,” referring to our baby on the way.

“You’ll be moving back to the suburbs so quick, mark my words,” she said.

Now, I don’t for a second think there was any ill intent behind her statement, but still, it took me aback.

“We’ll never move back to the city or the suburbs,” I replied with a laugh. “This may be hard work but we love it.”

She then repeated her statement and followed it up with “just you wait and see.”

I decided not to continue the back and forth. After all, I told myself, it doesn’t matter if she or anyone else knows what’s truly in your heart. It doesn’t matter if she understands that there’s no amount of difficulty that would make me run back to the suburbs and leave this life behind. In fact, our dream is to upgrade to a bigger property someday where we can grow an even bigger garden and add more livestock to our homestead!

Likewise, I visited the city last weekend for a family event and as always, I had at least a couple people ask me “so when are you moving back to the city?”

Seven years later, and still we have friends and family members who think this is just a phase we’re going through, and eventually we’ll come to our senses and move back.

I used to get offended by these questions because I felt unseen; I felt like nobody took this life that I’m so passionate about seriously, and thought it was “cute” that I was “playing farmer” for a bit, but eventually I had to grow up and become part of the “real world” once again.

Now I just smile and reply “never:)”

Can you relate? How do you (politely) respond when someone questions your lifestyle choices or implies that you’ll eventually come to your senses and come back to “reality”?

Let me know below 👇
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The fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine just dropped!

In this issue you’ll find:

• Preparedness tips, tricks and advice to help you be ready for anything on the homestead (and in life!)
•The ultimate guide to growing garlic at home and it as both food and medicine
• Drool-worthy recipes that feature garlic as the star!
• Expert advice from A Farmgirl in the Making’s Ann Accetta-Scott on what to look for (and look out for) when buying or selling a homestead property
• Advice on how to learn and grow from perceived homesteading “failures”

And more!!!

Go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com or click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or login to the library and read the latest issue if you’re already subscribed!
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