Way back in the olden days (my granddaughter just asked me not too long ago what it was like when I was growing up, lol), way back when I had more energy, when I was a little more “Martha” than I am now, I used to do a lot more DIY and crafty kind of things. One of those things was drying oranges for all kinds of stuff. A.nd this year I came across a method that makes Beautiful Dried Oranges.
Now, nevermind that these are actually “cuties” in the photos. Just pretend with me that they’re oranges, ‘kay and know that this method should work for any citrus.
About Beautiful Dried Oranges:
The method for Beautiful Dried Oranges isn’t much different than drying any orange slices in the oven. The key difference is that these orange slices are sprinkled first with powdered sugar. I’ve adapted the method, after multiple batches this winter, from a page on Martha Stewart’s site.
That bit of sugar does a couple of things. For one, it makes the oranges such a gorgeous color. It’s like the color of oranges on steroids. The sugar is also hygroscopic and the oranges dry faster than they do when you use the traditional oven method without sugar. The oranges also have just a bit of flexibility; they’re not a rock hard orange slice.
The sugar also makes the oranges sweet, which is a good thing if you are thinking about (like I have been) using dried oranges to include in packets of mulling spices for Mulled Cider or Mulled Wine, or even my Spiced Tea which can be served cold in the summer, warm in the winter and can be a punch, too. Or maybe you just want to toss the oranges into any citrussy type punch, warm or cold as a garnish, maybe drop one in a tea cup to infuse your tea, or perch one on the edge of a glass. I suppose you could use beautiful dried oranges or another dried citrus to infuse vinegar or oils for salad dressings or marinades but it does seem like a lot of bother when most people can use fresh.
There are other non-food applications for beautiful dried oranges. I used to love using dried orange slices in my winter potpourri, along with cinnamon sticks and pine cones. It looks lovely in a wooden bowl or layered into a glass container. Dried oranges can be put out for the animals, hung or strung into wreaths, which is a great project for the kids.
Making Beautiful Dried Oranges:
If you follow my site, you might have noticed the dried oranges in some of my photos over the last few weeks. I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting. (And shameless plug, if you don’t follow me, I’d love it if you would!) And of course, each batch of dried oranges was a bit different until I finally worked out my method.
I also had to deal with a pretty big difference in timing, probably because all ovens are a bit different, and if they are spot on accurate, sometimes they circulate heat differently, too, which can affect timing. And of course, how thick or thin the orange slices are will make a difference, too. I was shooting for a quarter inch, and actually trying to make them as perfect as possible because I knew I’d be taking a picture, but invariably, after the first few, I’d get a bit sloppier. Just make sure your knife is good and sharp and the job goes easier.
When you lay your slices out, put any thicker slices towards the outside edge; they’ll actually bear the brunt of the heat. If all your slices are done perfectly the same thickness through, you’ll want to rotate them. The Beautiful Dried Oranges take about two and a half hours in my oven and I take them out when most are dry all the way through. They’ll become a bit drier and firmer as they sit and cool. Don’t bag them, though until they are dry all the way through because that could cause them to mold.
Saving Money on Beautiful Dried Oranges:
I made a rookie mistake when I substituted the Cuties for the oranges in my last batch, the one that’s showed on my page, here. It turns out the Cuties were a few cents less per pound, so in my head, I’d just shaved off some cost. I didn’t consider until I started cutting there was more waste with the cuties. As I cut off each end that amounted to a lot more than when I cut off each end of the oranges.
I tossed some of those ends into a batch of tea, though, and then a few went in my Big, Fat, Green Smoothies. There is nutritional value in the skins of citrus, even though we don’t usually eat them – the peels don’t make my green smoothies taste any better but they do add a lot of micronutrients.
When buying any citrus, as long as the fruit is sound, the color really doesn’t matter – pick out your citrus by how heavy they are. The heavier the fruit for the size, the juicier they will be. One thing about drying oranges is that it is the perfect “save” for any fruit that might be sitting around on the counter, languishing and slowly drying out. If your fruit is already past the juicy phase, you’ve got a head start om the drying.
Beautiful Dried Oranges
Special Equipment needed: racks, sheet trays, small sieve
- several oranges, as many as you’d like or can fit on your sheet trays & rack, cut 1/4″ thick
- about 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) for each rack of oranges
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Place orange slices on the rack you’ll be using. Generously dust with powdered sugar. Turn over and do the same for the other side. Place rack on top of sheet tray (to catch any drips) and leave in oven for about 2 1/2 hours, turning the slices over once about halfway through.
Remove from oven when most of the oranges are dried all the way through. If desired the rest may be returned to the oven or may finish drying in the open air.
Note: I haven’t tried this doing this with this recipe because it requires a cleaning of the oven rack, but you can lay slices directly on the oven rack and place a large piece or two of foil on the rack underneath to catch drips. The advantage is that a lot of orange slices can be done at one time, the disadvantage is that they will probably need to be turned and moved around several times as they dry.