Boil orange peels to make your house smell delicious, or use them for a tasty treat to candy-coat and dip in dark chocolate or decorate homemade scones. Whether your pleasure is fragrance or taste, don't discard the peel of that orange; pop it into a pot of boiling water and let the heady scent of oranges fill your kitchen and your home.
A slow cooker or a heavy enamel pan is ideal for boiling orange peels, but any pot will do in a pinch. Fill the pot generously with water -- about halfway to two-thirds -- and heat the water to boiling on the stove, or just plug in the crock-pot and set it to simmer. Be sure to secure the pot far from any prying fingers, curious small household tyrants and exuberant pets.
Perfume or Party Food
If you're planning to eat the orange as candied peel, use an organic orange or really scrub the skin of conventional citrus. Pesticides remain on the skin of the orange -- not a problem if you are discarding the peel or just using it as an air freshener. When the orange is scrubbed, slice off a thin piece from each end and score the remaining peel in quarters. Cut through just the peel and pith -- the white part -- not the fruit itself.
Segment and Slice
Peel the quarters of skin away from the fruit -- save the fruit in a sealed container for snacking later -- and lay them on a cutting board. With a sharp vegetable knife, score the quarters lengthwise into strips and then cut through the marks to separate the strips. Then dump all the beautifully cut peels into the hot water.
To make candied peel, bring the oranges to a boil in an open pan, pour off the water and repeat, adding fresh cold water, returning the peels to the boil and pouring off the water again. Do this two or three times to remove any bitter taste so your sugar-soaked orange strips will be sweet. Once the peels are boiled, heat 4 parts sugar to 1 part water to a simmer and keep it at simmer for about 8 minutes. Then add the peels, making sure they all get coated, and simmer them for 45 minutes, or until they are translucent. Don't stir them and remove them with a slotted spoon to dry on a cooling rack. Now you have candied orange peel for your next knock-out recipe. Bonus: Your house will smell terrific.
Boiled orange peel is a non-toxic and practically free air freshener, so try the timeless trick of simmering peels on the back of the stove -- or in an open crock-pot -- whenever you want a fresh scent. Add other natural and fragrant plants and spices to vary the mix: a cinnamon stick, cranberries, whole cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla -- extract or bean, bay leaves, lavender, anise, apple or lemon peel. Check from time to time and add more water so the pot doesn't boil dry -- that would definitely not smell good. Discarding the used peel also freshens your garbage -- orange peel deodorizes and is distinctly unappealing to bugs.
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Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .