Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Throw Out Those...Citrus Peels

My grandparents seldom threw out anything. Odds and ends were neatly stored in re-used glass jars of every description...everything from buttons, to rubber bands, to tea bags to twist-ties...each one had its place.

I thought of it as "pack-ratting." But it was not a mess, it was a collection of all those many things my own generation is so used to throwing away. My Grandpa's workshop was a glorious collection, too. He had collected out-of-date machines, and he used them for his woodworking whenever the newest and latest model caused his workplace to sideline an older version...he picked them up either free or for a very modest expense. They were built to last, and use them he did, right on through retirement. His workshop was a feast for the senses...barrels of different sawdusts stacked along the walls, the fragrant drifts of curly sawdust bits spilling from the tops. There were other barrels of unique woods...some planks, some odd bits, some long sections stacked neatly, awaiting use in one of his restoration projects. His tools were hung on pegboard along an entire wall flanked by a sturdy wooden worktable built along its length...vises and gloves and glue and other frequently-used items standing toward the back. When you walked in there, it was a symphony of fragrances, both pungent and heady, and motes of wood dust danced in the light filtering in from the windows. In winter, woodsmoke from a Franklin stove added its incense, and you could taste the air like a wine with its ever-shifting terroir.

A side table held a makeshift table of plywood balanced solidly on a series of sawhorses, its surface stained in ring shapes from the reused tin cans doubling as receptacles and mixing containers for stains, varnishes, and turpentine. There was always newspaper covering at least part of it. It's funny how memory hones certain images in sharp relief, while others are their blurred foil. Within that blur, there were so many reused items, and all this was normal and everyday to them...not extraordinary.

Fishing for rubber bands, or brads, or paperclips, or pennies has never seemed quite the fun when dug from the bottom of a handbag or junk drawer as they were to us children in those days from their designated glass pimiento or jelly jars, or canister. Wrapping papers were saved, pressed flat and folded, and had many reincarnations back and forth through different gift-giving special events. There were boxes of yarns, fabrics, tissue papers, styrofoam shapes, plastic bags, netting, empty gift tins, aluminum cans... you name it...all stacked in the rafters above the car in their garage.

I don't manage my possessions the same way my grandparents were in the habit of doing then, mostly because I've had to downsize the quantity so that it doesn't drown me in minutae and clutter...isn't that a western have so many things you can't even store them?? I've cleaned out a lot of that, changed many habits so that there's not an incoming clutter trail, and I have a long way to go in cleaning up the plenty I still have to manage. I'm embarrassed to say that this will probably be an ongoing task (organization), yet I'm so glad I downsized! The reason my grandparents never had to downsize is because they weren't in the habit of spending the same way people do today.

That said, I have noticed that I want to use my grandparents' sort of frugality to fully utilize the things we do have (we are more deliberate these days about any purchase, and food falls into that category as well)...the things we do want around. Why should I have to go re-purchase string, rubber bands, twist-ties, etc, when I could be more deliberate in saving them?

I need to balance frugal saving so it will fall somewhere between extremes.

I need to find multiple uses for certain things, namely foods. As we tiptoe into the world of growing our own foods and making many things homemade, I want to be sure we've used them as fully as possible. Sure, we can grow a food we like. Does it have only one use, or many?

I'm starting a "Don't Throw Those Out" series as I run across things that may have uses beyond the point I'd normally have thrown them away. In most cases, nearly all food products can be composted in some way, if nothing else. I've been surprised at the interesting and unfamiliar-to-me ways our resources can be transformed into multiple products before they are considered Done For.

That said, I'll begin with citrus fruits.

Citrus fruits that are grown without pesticides or chemicals are good beyond their use as a table fruit or juice. Many times we just toss those peels away, and sometimes they don't even make the compost pile if we have too many of them. (But they make it back into the soil somehow...)

Our Meyer Lemon and Persian and Indian Sweet limes produced for the first time this year, and it has been such fun juicing them by hand and adding them into foods or making them into simple, refreshing drinks. Originally from Tennessee, the novelty of being able to pick my own lemons and limes has not worn off...I feel exotic and spoiled! I also feel a great sense of waste in throwing out those fragrant peels for no other reason than not knowing quite what to do with them. My challenge to myself is to begin thinking like my grandparents would have, were they blessed with a bounty of fresh citrus peels. Here are some things they may have done with them...

1. Zested the peels into small strips and dried them, to be stored dry and used as spice

2. Candied the zests by boiling and preserving by rolling them later in sugar.

3. Doing #2 and dipping them into dark chocolate for addition to a festive dessert or treat tray at holidays

4. Using the imperfect peels (spots, etc) as a freshener for a garbage disposal (even though they didn't have garbage disposals)

5. Slicing, drying, combining later with cloves and cinnamon in simmering water as a back-burner room freshener

6. Zested and steeped in an interesting bottle of vinegar...or kept in a small container of sugar as a specialty baking addition

7. Scrubbing elbows, heels of feet, and any other area of skin prone to blotchiness or discoloration

8. I use lemon peels to scrub my veggie-chopping work area after working with really pungent things like seems to neutralize the odors so they don't penetrate so easily. Works great with baking soda for scrubbing sinks and tubs, too!

9. To polish copper or scour stainless steel...just dip a used lemon half in kosher salt and scrub, then rinse and polish

10. Clean orange halves that have been juiced can be scraped of pulp remains and used as a fragrant container in which to chill individual servings of cold chicken salad, fruit chunks or chilled pudding

11. Good citrus fruits with skin imperfections can be made into pomanders by studding with cloves and rolling in a fragrant spice blend and allowing to dry.

12. Fresh, undried zests can go right into cakes and other baked goods. Fresh orange zest turns ordinary teriyaki sauces into extraordinary, and pairs well with honey or brown sugar for a glaze for roasted/baked winter squash/pumpkins.

I look forward to posting about other ordinary things that have further use before being discarded.

How do you use your leftover citrus peels?


Carolyn said...

Great ideas. Thanks for the post.

Stephanie said...

oh fresh citrus. That must be wonderful! I didn't know you could do so much with the peel!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I have feeling I'm gonna love this new series! :) I really enjoy reading about your grandparents. I never got tired of playing in grandmas shiny and colorful buttom drawer. And we all smirked and sighed while she slowly, painstakingly, unwrapped her gifts each year and saved every scrap of paper. LOVED that about her. (And now I find myself doing many of the same things.) Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Paulette said...

Great ideas, the only way I've ever re-used citrus peels is to gently boil in water on the stove with spices just for the aroma.

I must be turning into my father...he too saved everything. I realized when I read this that I've been saving pimento jars, not really thinking about it :-).

Thanks for sharing.

Mrs. K's Lemonade Stand said...

My husband seems to save everything. Although I admit it drives me nuts, he does manage to often use stuff he has squirreled away

Robbyn said...

Carolyn :)

Stephanie, neither did I till I saw how much we were throwing away and looked up how to use them...a nice surprise!

Angie, mine did the same thing, and wow how I wish she were still here :)

Paulette, it's funny the little things that remind us of our loved ones...I like the sense of history repeating itself in the little things :)

Mrs. K, lol my hubby is much the same way, but not particularly organized about it. I like to think of his uses of all those things as his McGyver genius ;-)

jayedee said...

great scott girl! i had no idea you could do all that......i was stuck after feeding 'em to the cows, boiling them as potpourri with cinnamon and grinding 'em up in the garbage disposer!

Chile said...

Limoncello is made by steeping lemon peels in vodka for 4-6 weeks. After straining, a sugar syrup is added to make a wonderful drink that's perfect for Christmas gifts.

barbara (in Tennessee) said...

Those are all wonderful ideas. I'll be looking forward to the rest of the series.

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

What a glorious and sumptious shade of green that is! I don't really buy citrus, because of my acid reflux.

Granny Sue said...

Wow! What great ideas. Let's see, what have I done that's not mentioned?
Made marmalade with orange peels, made tea with bergamot, rose hips and orange peel, used as fire enhancers (the citrus oil adds colorful sparks to a wood fire)...My favorite use is one you list, which is to grate and dry for later use in baking--everything from muffins to cookies to fruitcake. Yummm!

lil songbird mama said...

Oh my! I didn't realize that I could use citrus peel for so many different things...thanks for the list!

Country Girl said...

Great post. I just saved some orange peels the other day to use while cooking. I had previously bought some at the natural food store and thought what the heck, we throw this stuff away and I'm buying it. I googled it and made it happen.

Robbyn said...

Jayedee, you're back!!! I didnt know livestock could eat the peels...good t'know!

Chile, wow that does sound good...I'll have to try it!

Barbara, thanks! I'll look forward to hearing your tips as well :)

Brenda, yes, don't plants have such wonderful ranges of shades and hues? A feast in itself!

Granny Sue, I didnt know you could put them in the neat! OK that marmalade sounds great, and I like anything with bergamot in it, mmmm!

Songbird, I'm learning, many neat uses :)

Robbyn said...

Kim, isnt it interesting how differently we think of food since we have to be more deliberate about whether it's been sprayed with chemicals or not? Makes me definately not take those foods for granted as much, and want to use them in whatever ways possible...can't say I thought about it as much in years past.

annette said...

Until reading your blog, I just used my used citrus as a garbage disposal freshener or to the compost pile! Now I will rethink when I have used citrus.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

was a very interesting post and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I loved all the tips on ways to reuse citrus peels, too.

And my favorite part was your way of beautiful way of writing such magical memories. :)


Killi said...

I was told that orange peels dried make good fire lighters. Because I try to keep our range "in" all the time, I try to persuade my daughter to throw her peelings straight into it to ensure that it does continue. I made candied peel once, but it disappeared so quickly after all my hard work that I didn't repeat the experiment. I like Chile's idea, so I may have to stop eating the lemon peel to save some for vodka!

ejm said...

I love the idea to use a pulped orange half as a bowl for chicken salad!