It all started with a box of organic oranges. And let me tell you, they were delicious – in fact, quite possibly the best oranges I’ve ever tasted. But then I got to thinking, and being the conservative money saver that I am, I wondered, “What could I do with all these orange peels? We just CAN’T throw them away.”
For the next few weeks, I protected our orange peels like a hawk from those who might have, without a little nudging from me, simply discarded them like normal human beings.
So here’s what I did with them instead. First, I threw some of them in a pot of water on the stove with some cloves and cinnamon, and heated the water until it began to boil. Then I turned the heat down to low and let the whole concoction simmer there for a few hours.
And voila. Our house, or at least the kitchen area, now smelled fantastic.
Oh, and then I found that a strip of orange peel simmered in a pot of oats adds a lovely new flavor to our breakfast.
However, my grand scheme was to hopefully make orange extract or orange oil from the peels. (I would never try this with regular, non organic orange peels because they have been heavily sprayed with pesticides.) This might take some doing, and a little more time and effort. Mostly I needed time to decide how I was going to make it, since what few articles I could find on the subject seem to vary somewhat in their method. So, in the meantime, the orange peels just sat. And sat. They were sealed up in a Ziploc bag, so I figured they would stay put until I had time to do something with them.
But that’s where I was wrong. Just as I was getting ready to use them, I noticed they were growing mold. Yuck! So I threw out a whole gallon bag of them. I then salvaged what I could from a second bag of peels, washed them, and began the drying process.
Here they are drying out in the oven:
This is what I should have done before I put them into bags. Now, according to some online sources, you do not want to actually heat them or use a dehydrator, because that will cause you to lose the orange oil in the peels. Instead, you want to let them air dry naturally. I was just keeping them in the oven for part of the time because it was warm in there and it saved some space.
You can let them just hang out for several days until they are quite hard and dry.
Next, you want to put them in a food processor until they are ground into small pieces, like this:
Just don’t crush them until they start to get soggy. You don’t want to release the oil in the peels yet, which is what started happening to me. That’s why I had to break some of them apart by hand so they would all fit in the jar.
Now you want to put them in a jar and pour some grain alcohol or vodka over until they are submerged in liquid. I used 40% alcohol/80 proof rum, although I believe vodka is generally cheaper. It actually took more alcohol to cover the peels than I thought it would, so we had to run to the store for some more rum. I found that it took about 750ml, or a little over 2 pints, to cover the full quart sized jar of orange peels.
Screw the lid on, and that’s really all there is to it – other than a lot of waiting. You’ll need to keep the mixture away from light and give it a good shake every now and then. Again, internet opinion varies on how long you should wait to use the extract. I plan to wait about two months, since that is how long you would usually wait to use vanilla extract.
There is one more step if you want orange oil: You must strain the liquid off the orange peels into a dark colored jar, cover the opening with a breathable cloth or coffee filter, and allow the liquid to evaporate. What’s left will be orange oil. I plan to try this with some or all of the extract in a couple of months. I’ll let you know how it all turns out as well as how much money I’ve saved in another post.
Oh, and by the way, if you like candles, you should check this out: How to Make an Orange Candle. Looks really cool, doesn’t it? Mine didn’t turn out as pretty, but I can tell you that it worked quite well. Just be sure to saturate the “wick” with oil first – otherwise you may have trouble lighting it.
Wondering what orange oil could be used for? Well, I had heard of it being used in household cleaning, but apparently it can also be used in gardening and pest control. And so much more. According to Plant Therapy Essential Oils, it can be used as an “antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, cordial, deodorant, digestive, stimulant (nervous) and tonic (cardiac, circulatory). It has also been applied to combat colds, constipation, dull skin, flatulence, the flu, gums, slow digestion, and stress.”
If you’d rather buy organic orange oil instead of making it, you can purchase it here:
Here’s a link to the food processor I used:
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