Making for Kids,  What Hannah Makes

How to Dry Citrus: and What to Do With It

Deck the halls… it’s winter (almost). The days are short. It’s dark when I wake up. It’s dark shortly after the kids get home from school. Am I the only one who feels surprised by it? Like is it always this dark this time of year? Am I living in Alaska?

Anyway, this dreary winter season has whipped me into a crafting machine. My house looks dreary too, so I want to liven it up with some Christmas festivities. I’ve been listening to Christmas music since before Thanksgiving. I know some people think that’s against the law, but I do what I want. (Anyone else need some Christmas cheer a little early this year? Listen, if there were Thanksgiving music that calmed my soul and put me in a happy place I would listen to it, but how much Thanksgiving music do you know of?).

The past few days I have been dehydrating citruses in my Excalibur dehydrator and it has been lovely. Just lovely. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. If you’re thinking of drying some citrus — oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or limes… I can teach you how in this handy guide how to dry citrus. 

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What You Need to Dry Citrus

You need a few basic things to dry citrus slices:

  • An oven or a dehydrator
  • Citrus such as oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit
  • A sharp serrated knife (you can probably use a mandoline but mine does not make thick enough slices)
  • Parchment paper
  • Twine (if you want to make ornaments)

Step 1: Wash Your Citrus Fruit

If you’re planning on using your citrus to eat later, it’s a good idea to wash it first. You can put the fruit in a diluted vinegar bath so remove bacteria or dirt from the outside of the fruit.

Step 2: Cut the Citrus into Slices

Cut the oranges into slices about 1/4 or 1/8 inches thick. Mine weren’t perfectly cut and some of them were thicker than they should have been. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to dry or dehydrate.

Step 3: Put the Citrus into a Dehydrator or the Oven

The next step is to line your citrus slices on a dehydrator rack or on a cookie sheet to put into the oven. I used my Excalibur dehydrator to dry my citrus fruit, but you can also use an oven or a different type of dehydrator.

How To Dry Citrus in the Dehydrator

My slices were not half an inch apart in all places, but they were fine in the dehydrator just FYI. The main thing is to not stack them on top of each other.

Use the directions that come with your dehydrator to choose the proper temperature and drying time. My dehydrator (and probably most) say to set the temperature at 135 degrees.

Line up the citrus slices and put them into your dehydrator. Place them about half an inch apart and do not overlap or put any on top of each other.

I put parchment paper under each tray to keep my dehydrator clean. Depending on what type of dehydrator you’re using you could do this, or you can also get silicone liners or plastic trays to try to keep your dehydrator clean.

How to Dry Citrus in the Oven

I haven’t tried drying oranges or other citruses in the oven, but it can definitely be done! To dehydrate them in the oven, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the citrus on the parchment paper keeping them at least half an inch apart from each other. Do not stack them.

Put them in the oven at 200 degrees or less if your oven allows. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take but a lower temperature will allow it to dehydrate while not baking them.

Step 4: Keep Checking On Your Citrus

Part of the job of drying citrus is to keep checking on them. Some may dry faster than others, and you don’t want them to stay in the oven or dehydrator too long. I think it’s a good idea to flip the slices over while they dry and rotate them in the oven or dehydrator. This will help them dry more evenly.

How Do You Know the Citrus is Dry?

You’ll know your citrus rounds are done when they get a glassy look like a glass window. They also won’t be sticky to the touch or puffy with liquid. If all of the moisture is not removed it will turn moldy and not last as long.

How Long Does it Take to Dry Citrus Fruit?

In a dehydrator, it can take anywhere from 8-24 hours to dry. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take to fully dry. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I’ve read that it takes 3-6 hours to dry them in the oven.

What Should You Do With Your Dried Citrus?

Now that your citrus slices are dried, what can you do with them? I dried them for the purpose of decorating for Christmas. I think the color and designs of these fruits are beautiful and a lovely natural part of our Christmas decor.

1. Dried Citrus Ornament

I made an ornament from the citrus that I dehydrated. I used a chopstick to poke a hole in it because that’s what I had to use. I could have made the whole a bit smaller, but it is what it is. In the last picture below, I showed two ways to thread the twine through the ornament so you can hang it. I chose to put it on this way so the citrus slice would face forward instead of sideways on the tree (or wherever you’ll hang it).

2. Dried Citrus Garland

Another option is to create a garland with the dried citrus slices. Once again, I made a hole with a chopstick, and threaded the twine through the citrus rounds. Once they were threaded on, I tied a knot and then a second know so the slices would face forward. I kept doing this until the garland was the length I wanted it to be.

When the garland is finished, you can hang it on the tree, over the mantle place, or anywhere else a garland would look beautiful. I hung it around a large mirror that we have in our living room.

3. Make a Dried Citrus Wreath

I made a tutorial teaching you everything you need to know to make this a dried citrus wreath.

4. Other Things You Can Do With Dried Citrus

Here’s a list of some other ideas you can do with your dehydrated citrus:

  • Decorate a present or package
  • Make a potpourri
  • Make them into a centerpiece for the table
  • Use them for food
    • Garnish for drinks
    • Blend it into powder to be put in baking or drinks
    • As a seasoning
    • Add sugar to them to make them taste sweet like candy
    • Add them to your tea or make tea from it
    • Eat them as they are

To make sure that you’re dehydrating the citrus safely for consumption, it’s best to follow the guidelines for each type of food. My dehydrator recommends heating the food at a temperature of 135 degrees.

For tips for safely dehydrating foods, check out Pick Your Own’s guide and Already Cooking also has a nice guide.

The Purposeful Pantry also has a pretty extensive collection of videos about dehydrating and she offers lots of helpful information about safely dehydrating and properly storing dehydrated foods.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Drying Citrus

Do you have some questions about drying oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit? I have some answers.

How to Keep the Color and Shape of the Citrus?

OK so fun fact. I did NOT expect my lemons and limes to turn brown in my dehydrator but they did. I read that it has something to do with the way the sugars react to the heat of the dehydrator. Why didn’t the oranges or grapefruit turn brown? I’m not sure about that, but they did not.

I ended up liking the brown color of the lemons and limes, but if you’re trying to retain the original color, you can try dehydrating it at a lower temperature. I wouldn’t recommend this if you plan on eating them, but it could work if you’re using them for decorations. Expect to dry them longer at a lower temperature.

How Long Does Dried Citrus Last?

From my research (I haven’t made these before this year) the dried citrus slices can last anywhere from 2 to 5 years if they’ve been properly dried. If they still have moisture in them they will mold and become gross.

How Do You Dry Citrus Quickly?

You can dry citrus more quickly if you dehydrate it at a higher temperature, but be aware that doing this way puts it at risk for burning, discoloration, and warping.

Can You Dry Citrus in the Sun?

Yes, you can, but you’ll have to have hot sunny weather to do it. You can place them on a single tray in the sun with cheesecloth over it to protect it from pests. If the humidity is too high (above 60% you won’t be able to dry the citrus). Bring the fruit inside at night. If you have dry hot weather, it will take several days to dehydrate.

I can’t promise that this method is safe for consumption, but the high level of acid in the fruits does make it safer than other types of food. Sun-drying has also been around for quite a long time for foods.

What to Do With the End Pieces?

As you’re cutting up the citrus, you may be wondering what to do with the end pieces. You could toss in the garbage, but I have some other ideas for you to try out.

  • Turn it into tea. I boiled the orange ends on the stove and used them for orange tea. I added some of our honey and it was delicious. I did try it with the lemons and limes as well, but I had left it on the stove too long and it became bitter. If you try a lemon, lime, orange tea, let me know what you think.
  • Just boil them. Boiling the ends on the stove, even if you aren’t planning on drinking it as a tea, smells good and if you breathe it in makes you feel good.
  • Throw it in the compost. You can toss your ends in the compost if you’re done using them.
  • Make a cleaner. Put the ends in a glass jar and fill it to the top with white distilled vinegar. Put it out of the sun and store it for two weeks. When that’s finished, discard the citrus ends and pour the solution into a cleaning spray bottle.
  • Use it on your garden. I just recently found out that boiling oranges/orange peels and putting the orange water (diluted) on your garden can help it grow and keep pests away. I haven’t tried it myself, but I would be willing to give it a try.

What is the Difference Between Citrus Rind and Citrus Zest?

The zest is the colorful outermost part of citrus. The rind is the white part between the colorful part and the fruit.

Can You Eat Citrus Rind?

Yes, but the rind is pretty bitter and may upset your stomach if eat large quantities.

What Will You Make With Your Dried Citrus?

Now that you’ve seen what we made, what will you make? Do you love the look of stained glass window slices? I can’t wait to hear all about your creations! As always, keep making and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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