Chasing the cold away: dehydrating lemons and canning clementines

2013-02-18 20.33.08I promised myself that this winter I would actively food preserve. Preserve citrus, preserve (through dehydration or maybe some small batches of chutney or a salsa or some such things) any bits of fruit and veggie that might otherwise not get used. The more I experiment the more there is to experiment with. I also want to continue to decrease wasting food. I want to mind my nickles and dimes (as we no longer have pennies here) and more importantly, it’s really the least I can do to be mindful of the millions of people who go hungry in this world because of greed, waste and capitalism.

Dehydrating and canning in the winter is sweet. This morning it was -30 C, putting the canning pot on to boil – and then the subsequent beautiful steam made the house far less zingy and zappy from static. Along with canning a whack of clementines (maybe one of the easiest canning ventures ever – with shockingly good results) I also dehydrated lemons.

Between the peeling of the oranges and the zesting and drying of lemons, the house smelled a lot like summer.

This is the first time I have dried lemons (intentionally). I learned lots in this first run with the lemons.

For drying the lemons

1. Don’t slice the lemons super thin and not much more than 1/4 cm thick (you could, but it takes a long time to dry, and this also means that they will likely discolour – although they will still taste okay). Get rid of the seeds.

2. If the lemons are thick rinded, consider, for a couple of the lemons (if you are doing a bunch) zesting the skin before cutting (and keep the zest in freezer or dry for other uses), then paring off the pith and then slicing the ‘cleaned’ lemon.

3. I put them on the dehydrator trays just with the mesh racks. It took about 12 hours (some took less, because I wasn’t consistent in thickness cutting). I checked them every few hours, turned the trays, all the normal stuff that’s good to do.

What, you may ask, is the point of dehydrating lemons? Well, some things come to mind: grinding and adding to my home made spice and herb blends, lemon powder for sprinkling on or in baked goods and icings, popping dry lemon slices in drinks, putting them in/on fish or fowl for cooking, potpourri.

The dried lemon rounds are gorgeous. They look like citrus snowflakes.

For canning the Clementines

1. It takes 7 Clementines per 500 ml jar and I hot pack them using  a  light syrup.

2. Peel the oranges, take off as much of the pith and the stringy pith as you can without causing cramping to the fingers and brain. I prefer to break the oranges into sections as I can get more in a jar than canning whole ones.

3. For the syrup, I’ve found that using juice makes the fruit flavour pop and helps keep a lovely orange glow to the jar. I use fresh pressed apple juice that I get from the market or I use regular apple juice or white grape. Sometimes I water it down with some water. For packing 4 jars, I boil up about 700-750 ml juice.

4. Once your juice is lightly boiling dump in the oranges gently stir, and bring back to a low boil – don’t over boil, the fruit will get too mushy (at least for my liking).

5.Once the jars are sterilised, pack in each the amount of sections equal to 7 Clementines. Gently squish them in, I find a chopstick, a soup spoon and kind words will do the trick. Then, with a funnel slowly fill the jar with your warm juice (also known as syrup). continuing with gentle nudging with your spoon and chopstick to get rid of bubbles.

6.  Pop on your boiled snap lid, screw on the ring, but in canner and boil for at least 10 minutes. I’ve done up to 15 minutes with no bad change to the fruit consistency.

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