My second post for this Pantry section of the blog is a request. I use dried orange peel in rather a lot of my recipes (you may have noticed), so I've been asked to share how I prep it and why I use it.
Orange peel is edible and contains many of the same nutrients as the fruit itself, sometimes, as in the case of vitamin C and fibre, in more concentrated doses. The only caveat is that there could be residual pesticides on the skin, so give it a wash before using it.
I first started drying orange peel and using it after hitting a stumbling block when making a recipe from my cookbook Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid. A few of the recipes call for dried orange peel, and zest just wasn't getting the effect I was looking for. My grandmother and I therefore started saving the peels off oranges and then drying them over the wood burning stove at my parents' chalet. Whole they dried well but were harder to use, to we started cutting them into strips before drying them. We then discovered that while they were a much more useable size, the pith was quite bitter and ruined the taste. We therefore started cutting away the pith before drying, and that is what I still do now. I try to do a lot of this during the winter when oranges are in season so that I have some for the rest of the year.
I use it in all sorts of dishes. It doesn't always give a strong orangey note, but it does brighten dishes with a slight tangy note and a little sweetness. I use it to balance out flavours, in something creamy, Turkey Cream Pasta for example, it keeps the dish from tasting too cloyingly heavy, in something spiced it balances the deeper, richer tones of, for example, cinnamon and cloves with a higher, lighter note. Even a small amount brings a fresher note to food. In short, it plays a nice counter part to sweet notes, like chocolate, or in cookies, as well as being a foil to deeper savoury notes. Some herbs and spices lend themselves particularly well to pairing with Orange peel, like cinnamon, cloves, basilic, and more recently discovered, fenugreek.
I use other citrus peels too. Lemon has an even brighter, fresher note, but also a little more bitterness and is a slightly less rounded flavour than orange. Grapefruit is deeper and, in a way, more citrusy but also more bitter. In Golden Milk though, I found that the grapefruit worked much better than orange without imparting any bitterness. It's been all about playing with different notes and experimenting them, but over the last two years I've really enjoyed that process.
I also use dried orange peel in different sizes depending on what I'm doing. Crushing some in a mortar and pestle (or putting it through a spice/coffee grinder) replaces fresh orange zest in baking quite nicely. Strips of it in other dishes, sometimes crumbled into smaller bits, sometimes in long elegant ribbons, offer a variation in texture, like in my Pumpkin Pie with a Rosehip Swirl or in Baked Oats (coming soon), while broader swirls of peel work well for infusing, like in Golden Milk, or for decoration.
Orange peel, clean, as much or as little as you want
1) Using a butter knife, carefully cut the pith away from the inside of the peel.
2) Cut the peel into the desired size(s).
3) Place on a baking tray and then dry them. As I no longer have daily access to my parents' wood stove, I dry them in the oven now (you can air dry them but it takes longer and there is a higher likelihood of them going mouldy rather than drying completely). As I use the oven almost every day, I place them on a baking try or a pie plate in a cooling oven once I've baked or roasted whatever it was that I was cooking and leave the peel in there. I turn them over once or twice and pull them out when the oven is cool. Be careful though, if the oven was on high heat either let it cool a bit before putting the orange peel in or take them out quickly or they might get a little darker than you intended!
4) Store in an airtight jar. If it is properly dry, I've had it keep for up to 6 or 9 months.
An added benefit to drying it at home in the oven is the smell the peels release in the process!
Here are a few other recipes I use it in (it pops up a lot, and if you search "Orange" recipes including it will pop up).