While in many parts of the country there’s still snow on the ground, if you live in a citrus growing region, chances are it’s just gotten warm enough for your trees to start producing – and boy, do they ever produce. Whether you’ve got a single tree or a whole garden of citrus trees, you’re probably about to end up with more lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, or tangerines than you know what to do with. So before you, your family, and your nearest and dearest friends and neighbors get all puckered up from so much sour, here are five great (slightly sweeter!) ways to use up all that fruit.
This is one of the simplest and most refreshing ways to use up almost any kind of citrus fruit. Simply place several thin slices in a Spigot Jar layered with ice and fill with pure, cool water. The citrus juice will add a subtle but bright flavor and will feel extra cool going down on a hot day. Cold water naturally improves your metabolism, and lemon water specifically is extremely good for your gastrointestinal system and liver function, especially if you drink it regularly. For a stronger juice, muddle the citrus slices with a Potato Masher and a little sugar before adding to the Dispenser
Works With: Almost any citrus but grapefruit, which can be a little too bitter.
Sorbet Or Granita
Since citrus is prone to causing dairy to curdle, you’re more or less out of luck when it comes to naturally flavored citrus ice cream. But fresh squeezed citrus juice can make for amazing sorbets or granitas, which retain the fresh flavor of the juice and are spectacularly cool and refreshing on a warm day. Just add about 1tsp of fresh grated zest (a Zester works just fine, but a Microplane is better if you want to leave the zest in) to 1 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid is clear. Cool to room temperature, then combine with 1 1/2 cups of citrus juice an 1 tablespoon of good vodka. Chill the mixture and run it through an ice cream maker or freeze in a shallow Cookie Pan, scraping and mixing with a fork every hour for about four hours or until solid. The alcohol will help create a smooth, fine texture, and swapping vodka for slightly more champagne will add a little effervescence to the finished product.
Works with: any kind of citrus, but taste the mixture before freezing; especially tart or bitter citrus might require a little additional sugar/water mix.
The name might not sound super appetizing, but this versatile preserve can be used as a spread or a filling for tarts or pies (it makes a great lemon meringue!), and can even be eaten by the spoonful if you’re feeling decadent. Just combine 3 whole eggs and 1 cup sugar in a Double Boiler, whisking until smooth and light colored, then whisk in 1/2 cup fresh citrus juice + 1 tablespoon zest and 1/4 cup cold, cubed butter and cook over medium low heat. Stir continually until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a distinct trail when wiped. The best part? If you make a big batch and process it in a Canner or pressure cooker, it can last for up to a year.
Works with: any kind of citrus, though lemon is most common.
While jam and jelly canning can seem a little complicated, citrus fruits make excellent, simple jams and marmalades that really don’t require much culinary prowess at all. In a food processor or blender, finely chop 3 peeled, chunked oranges (or equivalent sweetish citrus), then combine with 4 cups of sugar (grated zest optional for a marmalade texture without all the cooking and chopping) and let stand, mixing occasionally for about 10 minutes. Then combine 3oz Liquid Fruit Pectin and 2 Tablespoons water and add to the orange mixture, stirring for about 3 minutes – that’s it. Jelly in about 15 minutes. Because it’s a no-cook recipe, it won’t last quite so long (about 3 weeks in the fridge), but it makes a great gift when sealed in some Pretty Jars.
Works with: any type of orange, sweet grapefruits, and meyer lemons – other citrus may be too tart or bitter.
Like the curd, citrus pudding has a smooth texture and a surprising sweet-tart kick. Muddle 1 teaspoon finely grated zest with 1 tablespoon sugar in a Mortar and Pestle, then mix with 3 tablespoons cornstarch and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a Heavy Bottomed Suacepan. Whisk in just enough juice to make a slurry (to prevent the cornstarch from lumping) then add more juice, totaling about 2 cups. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens plus one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons Honey, and a tablespoon of orange flower water. This looks especially pretty in Champagne Flutes, and is utterly decadent topped with a little dollop of whipped cream.
Works with: Tangelos are best, but mandarin oranges, regular oranges, grapefruits, or even tangerines work as well. Nothing too tart.
The best thing about many of these options is that not only do they add a little variety to the seasonal onslaught of citrus, but many of them use all parts of the fruit, minimizing waste (or green compost fodder) and providing a great depth of flavor. Maybe even more importantly, several of these recipes can be made in big batches and stored for long periods of time so you can keep the bright, fresh taste of fresh picked citrus for months after your tree has slowed production (or some of your favorite citruses have disappeared from your local grocery store!)