Citrus to the Max!
Winter brings fresh citrus to the store and to your table – during the cold and sometimes gloomy days of winter, the bright smell of lemon or orange can add energy to your day and your recipes! As we also keep an eye on budgets and value, taking advantage of the seasonal abundance of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, tangerines, clementines, mandarins and more, check out these culinary and climate-smart hacks and tips to take your citrus to the max!
Get a smart start – take advantage of seasonal citrus sales, then store them well. Most citrus is fine on the cool kitchen counter for about 5 days, but you risk losing what isn’t used up as it dries out and loses quality much beyond that. Some tips to make the most of what is fresh and fabulous:
- Wash citrus before prepping or storing. Store in the refrigerator for best shelf life.
- Use a zester or micro plane to capture the flavor and fiber benefits of fruit zest. There are so many ways to use it:
- Add a teaspoon or two of zest to a small jar of salt or sugar – sprinkle on anything you are looking for a little burst of flavor – liven up leftovers and zip up sweet treats.
- Zest and juice fruits and freeze them together in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can add the juice and zest cubes to water, soups, teas and cocktails anytime.
- Freeze whole fruits for zesting and juicing later – store in a freezer bag with as much air as possible removed.
- Keep citrus peels from snacks/recipes and let them dry out on a counter or windowsill – they make great fresheners for the sink disposal – last thing you do before you finish cleaning the kitchen!
- Slice and dehydrate citrus in an air fryer (check appliance directions) or your regular oven – lay uniform thin slices 1 inch apart on a foil-lined sheet pan, lightly sprayed with oil. Oven temperature should be about 200 °F, time will be 2 – 6 hours, depending on size of fruit. Check out more how-to’s and ideas at The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- Beyond the plate – dried citrus fruit and zest is also great to use for decorating, such as festive dried fruit garlands and potpourri.
- How about a homemade citrus cleaner? Check out this easy-make method from US Citrus.
- Preserved or pickled, easy freezer jams, jellies and spreads -add a dash of the Mediterranean to seafood or poultry recipes with preserved lemons with thyme or oregano, or explore a rosy, luscious Cara Cara orange curd for a special cake, or a beautiful tart decorated with ruby-kissed dried orange slices.
- Treat yourself – one of my favorite recipes – overnight oats with fresh or frozen fruit, chia seeds, PICS Greek yogurt and lemon curd.
So many ways to enjoy the winter bounty of citrus our Produce Team has worked to source and bring to your local store – enjoy!
10 Ways to Love Lemons and Limes
Lemons and limes are major culinary collaborators, complimenting and enhancing many flavors, used in beverages, baking, and dishes from breakfast to dessert. They are essential to some cuisines – lemons front and center in Mediterranean and Italian dishes, limes synonymous with Southwestern, Caribbean, Thai and Mexican specialties. Every chef, foodie and dietitian has favorite ways to use the juice, zest and fruit of these citrus superstars.
Good to know:
- Lemons and limes should be washed under cool running water before use.
- A large lime or medium lemon will yield about ¼ cup of fresh juice.
- Store lemons and limes in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks
- Lemons and limes can be frozen – sliced in rounds or quarters, frozen individually on a parchment covered sheet pan, then bagged for use within 3 months.
- Add lemon or lime juice to pan sauces at the end of cooking, after removing from heat.
- Too much lemon and lime can curdle dairy – check ingredient ratios for best results.
- Lemon or lime juice can be used to minimize browning in apples and potatoes
- Fresh zest is best – lemon and lime zest lose flavor with exposure to air
- Lemon juice can substitute/reduce the need for added salt in some recipes.
Power pairings – lemons and limes are easy to use with a variety of herbs and spices. Check out this luscious list for some inspiration!
Butter, basil, ginger, honey, pepper, rosemary, garlic, parsley, thyme, oregano, Dijon, parmesan, dill, blueberry, and raspberry.
Lavish limes in dishes with:
Coconut, curry, chili, cilantro, coconut, chipotle, mango, hoisin, red pepper, jalapeno, cranberry, raspberry, and blackberry.
Bring that zing to your table with some great recipes:
Roasted Garlic Parmesan Dip (also a great sauce for chicken or seafood!)
Mouthwatering, aromatic, energizing – Citrus is the genus name for the many varieties of delicious fruit we enjoy all year, and have in abundance when most are in season over the winter in North America.
The orange, perhaps the most well-known citrus fruit to Americans, is an ancient hybrid, a cross between a pomelo and a mandarin, thought to have originated in the region now known as Southern China and Northern India. The first mention of the sweet orange was in Chinese literature in 314 B.C.!
The fruit, juice and peel of the sweet orange are all flavor and benefit components of this citrus superstar – over 70% of citrus farming is for sweet oranges, per 2012 data. In 2017, 73 million tons of oranges were grown worldwide. Sweet oranges, including the Hamlin (juice oranges) and navel (easy-peel) oranges are grown in the USA in Florida and California.
The Citrus family includes oranges, Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, lemons, Meyer lemons, limes, Key limes, mandarins, pomelos, tangerines, and tangelos – a beautiful, delicious and colorful family of fruits that bring aromatic flavor, color and texture to all types of meals and snacks. All are good sources of Vitamin C, essential to immunity and skin health. They also contain phytochemicals like polyphenols, terpenes and tannins – those active compounds have both health and flavor benefits, and research is ongoing to understand their full benefits.
The acidity of citrus fruits is the secret to their charm – the different levels of acidity bring flavor and balance to foods and recipes, and can create texture and tenderness. In order, from highest to lowest acid content, are lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges. We will be sharing more blogs, culinary tips, science and health, recipes and more during this peak citrus season as it rolls out from January to April. Single and bagged displays and great values will help you energize your cart and your plate with fresh, delicious citrus fruits all season!
Kick off with this Citrus Glazed Fruit Salad recipe – squeezed fresh orange juice amps up the flavor, and you can mix in orange, mandarin and grapefruit segments anytime!
This Citrus Basil Spritzer is a sweet and herbaceous take on agua fresca sparkles with fresh flavors!
Pretty and delicious – this yummy Spinach Pomegranate Orange Salad with Quick Pickled Red Onions winter salad includes in-season oranges and pomegranates! Some fresh Pulled Roasters Rotisserie Chicken from the Food Service case makes it a meal!
8 Ways to Love A Bag of Oranges (or Citrus)
The cheery view of a bowl of fruit on your counter in the winter is also a good way to remind yourself (and your family) to eat more every day! Americans have plenty of room to enjoy more fruit as part of their healthy habits – here are some fresh ideas for enjoying a bag of oranges (and other bagged fresh citrus options) that will color your plate with great!
- Sweet and Simple – Peel a fresh navel orange and indulge in the fresh, juicy goodness! You can also slice them into wedges and share, a good idea for smaller children. Surprise them with the aromatic, juicy Cara Cara orange, with its spectacular rosy color! There may be a few seeds, so check before sharing!
- Slice any citrus fruit into rounds, and place on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Freeze, and then bag for use in water or as fun garnish for beverages, desserts, seafood – your call!
- If you are juicing an orange, or any other citrus, roll it first to max extracting juice from the pulp – the little juice vesicles in the fruit segments. That will ensure you get as much juice as possible. Then, toss the spent halves into a bag in the freezer, to use for zest and a few other ways we will share – keep reading! Check out the kitchen section in stores for great citrus press to make it easy!
- Segment an orange, mandarin, minneola tangelo, grapefruit or pomelo, and add to any fresh salad. Oranges, mandarins and tangelos pair beautifully with peppery arugula (rocket) greens and vibrant radicchio. Fresh baby spinach is mild and pairs with all citrus. Grapefruit and pomelos like sweet, buttery lettuces, with a sweet dressing, like a light raspberry vinaigrette. Check out your favorite fresh salad kit – add mandarin segments to chipotle cheddar, orange segments to honey pecan, and grapefruit to enhance poppyseed. A squeeze of fresh lemon on a bagged Caesar salad brings some added zing to that savory staple!
- Sweet salvage – Those leftover peels and halves are good for some, such as dried for potpourri (easy to drop into a small crockpot with a cinnamon stick!), or zested into sugar or salt and used for seasoning. For those who prep early – there is just enough acid in the spent citrus halves/peels to minimize browning in cut apple or potato – just drop one of the frozen halves in the water before you cook/serve them.
- Citrus serves up flavor, color and energy in spritzers, smoothies and spirits. Cocktail and mocktail drinks with lime, lemon and orange are plentiful, with quite a few on the recipes link at Pricechopper.com. Don’t forget the grapefruit – brighten up your day when you slice them up and garnish grapefruit drinks, sparkling waters, and grown-up only shandies and hard seltzers.
- Sassy salsas – Chopped orange, grapefruit, or mandarin, with some chopped onion, garlic and herbs (rosemary, parsley, cilantro, basil all work) and zest from the fruit make a super salsa topper for chicken, turkey, pork or seafood.
- Clean up time – If you are exploring cleaning with white vinegar, consider dropping a few solid peel slices into the vinegar first – they should infuse for about a week. The peel will release its acid and aroma into the vinegar, adding a little cleaning energy and fresh scent to the spray. A 50/50 mix of infused vinegar and water in a spray bottle will arm you with a fresh way to clean up!