I’ve always believed that citrus season happens in winter as the earth’s way of reminding us that it’s not going to be cold and dreary forever. Somewhere in a warm orchard the sun is shining as brightly as the flavor of the sweetest clementine, and that warm sun will rotate around to our part of the world soon enough.
In the meantime, I like to stretch the ways I can use citrus fruits by making citrus sea salt out of the discarded peels.
If you have a dehydrator, making citrus salt is foolproof, but it’s only a bit more fiddly in an oven. Either way, begin with the peels of 4-5 oranges, or the equivalent in whatever your favorite citrus fruit is. Get as much of the white pith off as you can, and spread the peels out in a single layer on a baking sheet or dehydrator tray.
If you’re using a dehydrator, press start and come back in about 8 hours. It really is hard to mess up.
In the oven you have to be a little more careful. Set the oven to the lowest temperature possible — mine went down to 170 degrees — and keep an eye on it. If your oven won’t go below 200 degrees, I recommend propping open the door with a wooden spoon to keep the peels from scorching. Again, the peels should take about 8 hours to dry, and when they’re done they’ll be very brittle.
Once the peels are dried, put them in a food processor and pulse until they turn into powder. Run the powder through a fine sieve to remove any larger particles, and then pour into a jar with an equal amount of sea salt. Shake to combine well.
Now that you have a jar of sunny citrus sea salt, here’s a tasty roasted chicken recipe to try it out.
Citrus Sea Salt and Almond Crusted Chicken
2 chicken leg-and-thigh quarters, with skin on
1/2 cup unsalted almonds
2 tablespoons citrus sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Finely chop the almonds or pulse them in a food processor until they’re the consistency of bread crumbs. Mix the almonds and citrus salt together, then coat the chicken quarters with the combination, being sure to work some of the coating up under the skin.
Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat. Add the chicken quarters to the pan, skin side down, to brown them. The almonds will brown quickly, so don’t walk away from the pan. Once the skin side is brown, flip the chicken quarters to brown the other side, too.
Then put the whole pan in the oven. Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes, or until its internal temperature is 165 degrees and the juice is running clear. Enjoy with a veggie side like steamed broccoli or braised kale, and feel free to sprinkle a little more citrus salt on top.
— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at www.mybitofearth.net.