Orange Peel: Flavor Profile
A time-saver in the kitchen, dried orange peel can be substituted for fresh zest, and provides a burst of sweet, citrusy flavor to baked goods, summer ales, and creamy desserts. The peel is actually the outer-most layer; the bitter white pith is removed, leaving behind only the peel and its zesty, fresh flavor.
The peel also contains the highest content of essential oil, which produces the rich, flowery taste. If you plan to substitute dried peel for fresh zest, just be sure you get the ratio right. Typically, you’ll want to use about one-half of what’s called for fresh.
Cooking with Orange Zest
Unlike lemon zest, orange peel is less tart and sweeter. As such, it’s much more commonly used in sweet desserts. Yet, it can be used in savory sauces and dishes. The peels can be reconstituted quickly. Just soak in warm water for about 10 minutes, and then they’re ready for use in a variety of dishes.
Orange zest provides notes of sweet fruit, mild tartness and a hint of bitter tang. That makes it great in rubs, baked goods, and for a flash of flavor in bread crumb mixes. A few common uses include:
- Glazes – Orange peel adds just the right amount of sweetness and acid to sugary glazes. A simple orange glaze works nicely over grilled chicken or grilled veggies.
- Marinades – Add orange zest to your marinade to bring in notes of citrus and zest. Orange’s sweetness complements chicken and other lean meats.
- Dressings – Orange peel is great in salad dressings, like a sweet vinaigrette.
- Baked Goods – Orange zest works well in sweet breads, creamy desserts and custards, and ice cream.
- Bread Crumb Mixes – Orange zest helps to lighten fried foods. Add it to bread crumb mixes for a citrusy, fresh flavor.
- Rubs and Brines – Orange peel is a popular choice in dry rub mixes, and it adds sweetness to vinegary brines.
A Quick History of Oranges
Sweet oranges were not a wild plant. In fact, they’re a product of selective breeding, a cross between mandarin oranges and the pomelo fruit. A recent genetic analysis found that sweet oranges are about 42% pomelo and 58% mandarin.
The sweet orange originated in China, as early as 250 B.C. and it was widely distributed throughout Europe and the Middle East.
By the 10th Century, sweet oranges were being cultivated commercially in what is modern-day Spain, after the Moors introduced the fruit there in the 8th century. By the 15th century, sweet oranges were being cultivated throughout the Mediterranean, and the fruit quickly became a popular treat. It was prized by aristocrats and recognized as a sign of wealth. In fact, many wealthy Italians kept orangeries, which were orange orchards.
King Louis XIV helped introduce the fruit to the world. The king had a great love of oranges and built his own personal orangery at Versailles. By the 1400s, the orange had reached the Americas, thanks to Christopher Columbus, and first arrived in Florida by the mid-1500s. The Spanish introduced the orange in California in the 1700s.
Today, almost two-thirds of oranges produced in the world are so-called “common oranges.” Valencia and Navel oranges are both common orange varieties, for example.
Like almost all citrus trees, orange trees flourish in moderate temperatures. Therefore, they’re found primarily in climates that rarely dip below 60 degrees, including Spain, Florida and California.
The orange tree is an evergreen flowering tree – in fact, it’s the most widely grown fruit tree in the world. The trees grow to an average height of about 30 feet, and feature vibrant green oval leaves. The trees produce a white, pinkish flower each year, and the fruit grows in many shapes, depending on the variety.
Some oranges are more spherical like the Valencia orange, while others are more oblong, resembling a kumquat. Once harvested, the peels are dried in the oven, which helps to preserve many of the rich citrus flavors.
About Our Orange Peel
Our orange peels come from California-grown oranges. We work with small citrus farms in the state’s Central Valley, one of the most important agricultural regions in the world, producing 75 percent of the state’s citrus fruits. Our oranges are grown on small family farms, and we use primarily Valencia oranges.