Did you know dried orange slices can be used for making tangy snacks or even in teas and cocktails too? Well, yes. Dehydrated oranges taste a bit bitter than the fresh fruits but it’s not that bad. You can use them to garnish your tea, lemonade, cocktails and even ice water if you’re a fan of the tangy flavor.
You can also use them in different recipes, for instance, while marinating your chicken, beef or pork. The dried orange peels will boost both the flavor and the fragrance of your dish giving it a beautiful aroma and a fresh taste.
Though citrus and oranges are harder to preserve, you can use the dried orange slices for months and years if stored properly. You can also use the orange peels to make citrus powder. Citrus power is bitter than the zest, but you can use it as a backup during offseasons.
How to Dehydrate Orange
You can make dehydrated orange slices simply at your own home in very easy steps. Firstly, clean the oranges you want to dry and remove the stickers. Wash the oranges with water and organic fruit wash. If you don’t have an organic fruit wash, you can make one at home by using 120 ml distilled water and 0.5 liters of white vinegar.
Keep your oranges soaked in this solution for about 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water. Then peel the zest away first so that you can avoid the bitter white pith. Do keep in mind not to press hard to get thin peels. After peeling the oranges, cut them into thin slices. This will help them to dry separately and faster. If you want to keep the peels, then cut your oranges in cross-sectional manner to create circular wheels using a sharp knife. You can keep the slices at a thickness of 0.6 cm to dehydrate them efficiently.
You can dehydrate the oranges either using a dehydrating machine or dry those in the oven or you can even dry them naturally in the sun. Dehydrators are energy efficient and reasonable. But if you don’t want to use it regularly, then you can just use your oven or dry them naturally.
In the Dehydrator
At first, arrange the orange slices on the tray without overlapping them. Then you have to set the time and the temperature of your dehydrator. It usually varies from machine to machine, also on the thickness of your fruits and your personal choices. But it is recommended to keep the zest strips at the top as they dry fast and the oranges at the bottom, nearer to the heat source.
Dehydrate them for 5-24 hours at 115°-135° F or 46°-57° C till the slices get hard. In about 8 hours, the zests will be ready to be removed. Leave the oranges overnight if you want drier and browner texture.
This is a very slow process but you have to keep your patience and check up on your fruits every hour or so. After they are dried, store them in an airtight container and keep the jar in a cool and dark place. For instance, mason jars are excellent for storing them. But if you don’t have any around, just make sure whatever container you use can be vacuum sealed. This will keep your dried oranges fresh for at least a month.
In the Oven
While using a dehydrator is a slow and time-consuming process, you can use an oven to save your time by dehydrating the fruits quickly. Take some baking sheets with parchment paper. Keep the zests and oranges together without overlapping them. Pre-heat your oven at 200° F (93° C). You need to cook them in the lowest heat to avoid burning. Your oranges will be dried quickly in around 3-4 hours for the zests and 8 hours for the fruits.
For achieving that particular sticky texture, 3 hours will be fine. They make excellent chewy snacks. You can also keep the oven door slightly open to prevent overheating.
If you want the sugary and less tangy version, then dip your oranges in sugar before dehydrating them. Also, make sure you place the sugar side down. You can also add sea salt and black pepper if you want to add some extra flavors.
Store the oranges in a cool and dry place using an airtight container. You can also refrigerate them and store them for months.
In a Natural Process
If you want to avoid the hassle of using machines, you can dry them naturally by placing them in the sun. Mandarin oranges and tangerines will give the best result with this technique. After washing the oranges, cut them with a sharp knife without cutting the flesh of the oranges. Start at the top center and run your knife along with the peel, from the very top to the bottom. This will create an even section for peeling. Peel it off from the top and keep the peels intact.
Use a stainless steel drying rack and spread the peels there. You can also use a Teflon coated fiberglass or a plastic rack. Keep the rack on an elevated place so that it gets enough sunlight throughout the daytime. This will also prevent the fruits from getting damp. Put an aluminum foil under the rack. This will act as a reflector. It will also increase the drying temperature and dehydrate the peels effectively and efficiently. You can also place the rack on a hot concrete driveway to get more effective results.
Keep the peels for at least three days or more under direct sunlight until they dry properly. Make sure to take the peels at night to protect from condensation. Set them under the sun again the next morning. You’ll need at least 86° F (30° C) and a humidity level of maximum 60% to get the peels dry.
For protecting the peels from birds and insects, use a layer of cheesecloth. Spread it over the orange peels. This will allow the sunlight to enter preventing birds, insects, and other harmful animals. Do tuck the edges of the cheesecloth or else they might be blown away.
Store the peels in an airtight container or glass sealed jars. Keep them in a cool and dry place. The benefit of sun-dried peels is that they can be stored for several years without any worries. Moreover, the older the peel gets, the stronger the flavour becomes.
The best part of using dehydrated oranges is that you can use it for different purposes, be it for seasonings, drinks, as a sticky chewy candy or directly in your cooking, the possibilities are endless really. So keep experimenting and do try this at home!