24 Great Ideas for Citrus Zest / Skin / Peel


This post came about as I was  eating a perfectly delicious orange from our tree which set me thinking of ideas for the skin/zest/peel part of the fruit, this is what I came up with.

Firstly a few general points on citrus fruits ...

~   This post covers oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit (plus any other citrus fruit you can think of) and as a general guideline, at least so far as peel is concerned ...

1 grapefruit  =  3 oranges =  5 lemons  =  6 limes

~   Wash and dry citrus fruits well, especially if you intend eating the skin.

~   Remove zest before you do anything else with fruit (such as cutting, squeezing etc.) it is so much easier that way.

~   When removing the zest (the brightly coloured outer layer) be careful not to take the pith! This is the white fleshy stuff between the zest and the fruit; it is bitter.

~   Grated or shredded zest can be frozen for later (well worth doing as it is so useful) by wrapping small pieces in cling film and making a collection in an airtight container in the freezer. As the pieces are so tiny the zest can be used immediately from frozen.

Citrus fruit shells ...


1.     It might seem a bit old school but serving homemade citrus ice cream in the shell of the fruit is attractive, economical and a handy way of storing the dessert already portioned. You can, of course, do it with bought in ice cream too but where’s the point in buying it when you can make ice cream so very easily


2.     Put a few empty peels in the cavity of a chicken before roasting, lemon is the norm here but depending on your accompaniments orange and lime work well too.  Try orange peels in a roast duck.

3.     Clean chopping boards by scrubbing with the inside of a used lemon plus a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. If you've got a tricky stain let the fruit sit directly on it for a while to bleach it.

4.     Speaking of stains, if you have discoloured elbows (no need to explain!) rest them in a couple of squeezed lemon skins for a while and then wash them!

5.    Used citrus peels can make your home smell good, just leave them about the place or simmer them in a pan of water or do a similar thing in the microwave. 

6.    Slightly dried out peels, particularly orange, are good thrown on a wood fire to make a lovely smell – great at Christmas time.

Large Strips of Zest

These are easily removed from the fruit using a potato peeler.

Use large strips of zest to ...


7.   Flavour spirits, normally this would be vodka and lemon but gin and lemon would work to as would rum and orange for instance.  Ad strips of peel to the booze, seal and wait a week or so, strain before drinking. Or make ...

8.  Limoncello

the zest of 5 lemons, removed in large strips
1 ltr vodka
750g white sugar

~    Pour out a small amount of vodka and drink it!
~    Add the lemon peels to the bottle, close tightly and leave it alone for a week apart from giving it a shake once a day.
~    At the end of a week prepare a large, clean jar with a tightly fitting lid.
~    In a small pan over low heat stir together the sugar and 750ml water till the sugar is dissolved (or melted – I’m never sure which!).  Cool.
~    Pour the vodka and lemon rind into the clean jar, stir in the cooled syrup, seal tightly and wait another week or so, continuing with the shaking.
~    Store in a dark place and drink over ice.


9.   Similarly use citrus strips to flavour olive oil – just add the strips to the oil making sure they are completely submerged.

10.  Use a twist of fresh citrus zest to garnish drinks OR freeze little citrus twists in ice cubes.

11.  Crystallised Orange & its Ensuing Syrup

This is taken directly from my book, Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine, the Sauces Coulis and Syrups Chapter (so I've made it red to indicate that it's a quote) and is used to make luscious no-churn orange ice creams but is also good drizzled on all manner of things!

You can mostly sit and read or watch telly or play online bingo or whatever whilst this is cooking but do check occasionally. What you are checking for is that the fruit juice has not reduced and thickened too much. If it is too thick and getting frothy add a splash of hot water.  Remember you are aiming not only for tender zest but also a syrupy syrup – not jam.

2 gorgeous oranges
200g white sugar
200g icing sugar

~   Wash and dry two lovely bright unblemished oranges.
~   Using a potato peeler peel long strips of zest from the fruit – just the bright orange skin, not the white and bitter pith underneath.
~   Using a sharp knife cut the zest into little strips, or ‘julienne’.
~   Squeeze the juice from the denuded fruits into a measuring jug and, if necessary, make up to 500ml with water.
~   Bring the juice and sugar to a boil stirring till the sugar has dissolved.
~   Add the orange zest strips, partly cover the pan and simmer gently, topping up occasionally, till the zest is tender – 45-60 minutes.
~   Turn off the heat and cool a little in the pan.
~   Strain, keeping both the zest and the syrup.
~   Preheat oven to 275°F/140ºC/120ºC fan/gas .1
~   Sift the icing sugar onto a baking sheet or large plate and roll the orange zest in the icing sugar to coat it.
~   Spread out on a non-stick pan liner or baking parchment and bake for an hour or so to dry out.
~   Cool and keep dry for up to 3 months.
~   Also keep the syrup.

Large strips of Citrus Zest can also be dried 

Lay in a single layer not touching layer on a plate somewhere warm and dry for a few days. They can then be stored in an airtight container out of the sunlight and used whenever you remember you’ve got them!

12.   Add dried peels to your tea instead of lemon or milk.

13.   Put a strip or two into stocks, soups and stews.

14.   Use together with appropriate spices to mull wine (or make mulled wine syrup).

Grated Zest

The easiest tool for grating is a fine Microplane but any grater will do.


15.   Mix finely grated zest into pastry at the breadcrumb stage; orange zest pastry makes for fab mince pies.

16.   Mix into softened butter together with something complimentary eg. parsley, sea salt and black pepper with lemon, chilli with lime or light brown sugar with orange – see here for details and suggestions for flavoured butters

17.   Add to the mix when making a fruit crumble topping – simple crumble recipe here

18.    Stir into breadcrumbs for coating or topping dishes.

19.    Add to cake recipes or other baked goods eg. scones, biscuits etc.

20.    Citrus Sugar

Mash finely grated zest of 1 orange (or equivalent - see above) into about 250g granulated sugar till very well combined. Spread out on a tray and leave for several hours to dry. Use to replace plain sugar in appropriate recipes, sweeten tea, rim a cocktail glass, sprinkle on fruits, etc.

21.   Citrus Salt 

Very similar to the sugar above but with a higher percentage of zest to salt. Use lovely crunchy sea salt. (See here for spicy salt ideas and here for wonderful bacon salt).

22.   Lemon Pepper 

Mix together 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 3 of coarsely crushed peppercorns (a mix looks pretty but black  peppercorns are fine). Spread out on a foil lined baking tray and bake in a very low oven till the zest has dried out which takes about half an hour. Decant into the bowl of a pestle and mortar and crush to your desired texture.  Gradually stir in crunchy sea salt to taste.

23.   Gremolata


This is a classic Italian seasoning/garnish and is simply lemon zest, parsley and garlic. In slightly more detail finely grate the zest of 2 lemons and then (otherwise you might contaminate the rest of the lemon fruits) 1 large clove of garlic. Finely chop a small bunch of parsley and mix all three ingredient together. Gremolata adds bright highlights of colour and flavour to all sorts of dishes; sprinkle over lamb, chicken, fish, veggies and so on. Of course you could get all creative and use orange zest instead.

24.   Citrus Rub

Mix together 3 tablespoons of grated zest of your choice (or a mixture), a finely chopped garlic clove or two, a little chilli or paprika, salt and pepper and a little oil. I am being vague here as there are so many things you can rub this on; beef would go with orange and bit of chilli heat, fish with lemon or lime, chicken maybe heavy on the garlic and so on.  Anyhoo, mix these all together and rub onto your piece of meat or fish.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes (or longer in the fridge) before cooking using a dry heat eg. grilled, pan fried, baked etc. Maybe add a little grated fresh ginger!

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

If I can think of all these ideas for zest and peel don't you wonder what I've come up with for the other 449 leftovers in my leftover cookbook?


No comments: