Instead of tossing citrus peels into our kitchen compost bin, I’ve started putting them in a specific tub for several reasons. First, we received some blueberry bushes which love acidic soil, so we’ve been saving lemon peels for blueberry-specific compost.
Second, the inside of a citrus hull is perfect for scouring copper cookware (like a jam pan!) Sprinkle some salt on the pot and then scrub with the inside of the peel until bright and shiny. This works best with a freshly cut lemon half, but decently enough if it’s been juiced and zested.
Third, Offbeat Home ran a recipe for jelly made from fruit scraps and peels which requires either apple or citrus peels to supply the pectin and I want to try making it.
While we’re on the topic of citrus, another thing I’ve been doing is zesting the skin of every citrus fruit that gets eaten around here and saving the zest in the freezer (in a little glass jar, of course.) That way if a recipe calls for zest and we don’t have any fruit in the house, I’m spared a trip to the store. Our freezer is a mishmash of odds and ends: bones and vegetable scraps for stock, frozen pesto, grated zucchini and avocado, and knobs of ginger and cans of bacon grease. The guys have a habit of opening the freezer door when they’re hungry – probably formed in an era where there were things like ice cream and frozen pizza in there – and I have to laugh because nothing in there resembles a quick snack. Maybe the frozen tamales from two years ago. I need to throw those away.
Anyway, these squirreled away ingredients remind me of how weird food is. No kitchen is considered complete without a semi-arbitrary array of minerals, seeds, leaves, and roots that have been cultivated, grown, prepared, and imported because they have a specific taste that we value. And that’s relatively easy and cheap in today’s world: everyone knows the spice trade’s impact on world history.
Citrus fruits were a rare and expensive treat in medieval Europe and the American pioneer era. That we can get them here at any time of year is amazing. And trying to eke every last bit of use out of that fruit is at once practical and a little nod to the way things used to be.