It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we haven’t gotten our Christmas tree, but we’ve got oranges! Lot’s-o-oranges! I’ve got a string of dried ones hanging above the bells on our mantle, a few tucked into tiny pines around the house, some in jars to top gifts next month, several waiting to become ornaments, and another whole other batch in the oven as we speak, drying their way into yummy treats for the kid’s lunches. We all found out last week that they’re pretty tasty, too. I don’t know where or exactly when the dried orange decor originated, but I know they go way, way back. I also know that every time I see an orange during the holidays I think of my grandma, who always gifts us a gigantic one for Christmas. She’d first wrap it up in cellophane, and the some sort of wrapping paper with a little tape as she could muster, the piece of fruit looking undeniably orangey. I also know that most primitive and early Americana decors shops around the Midwest and New England areas have them sprinkled everywhere during the holidays. They are usually included in most spiced potpourri pots and baggies, and they are staples in most rustic kitchens in the winter. Dehydrated oranges are so simple to make, and are really beautiful no matter where or how you decide to use them. Below is a step by step guide to making your own dehydrated oranges without a dehydrator, after which you can turn into a variety of Christmasy gifts and goods for around your home!
Ingredients + Tools:
- Lots of medium sized oranges
- Baking sheets
- Cotton or paper towels
- Mandolin slicer or very sharp knife
- Jute string
- Dull threading needle
Step One: Preheat your oven as low as it will go. I set mine at 170 degrees, but 200 would work just fine.
Step Two: Slice the oranges 1/4 inch thick using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife. You will want to cut them width wise, starting at the bottom of the orange so they make a star pattern in the middle. Slice as many as you care to make, and place them on top of a cotton or paper towel to dry.
Step Three: Once you’ve cut all the oranges you care to dehydrate, cover the top of the ones you’ve already cut with another cotton or paper towel and press gently to absorb the moisture. Do this several times before transferring the oranges to a nonstick baking sheet.
Step Four: Bake the oranges for 4 hours and turn them over. Bake for another 2 hours, or until they do not bend when you pick them up. If you take an orange slice out of the oven after the total 8 hours of low baking and find that they still flop when shaken, they need more time. If you take an orange slice out of the oven after the total 5 hours of low baking and find that they are firm and crisp when shaken, they are done. Just make sure to check your oranges every few hours or so to make sure they do not over or under bake.
Step Five: Rest the oranges on a drying rack overnight before using for crafts. If you find that one of the oranges is still a little juicy after it has dehydrated and rested overnight, use it for something else, like a salad dressing. The moisture means it has potential to mold, and we do not want that!
Step Five: If you choose to make a garland with your oranges, first measure the length of your garland using a piece of jute string. After measuring, cut your piece of jute to size, making sure to leave about 10 inches of leeway on both sides to tie. Using a dull threading needle, thread the jute back and forth through the top of the dehyrtated orange near where the pith meets the fruit. This is the sturdiest place to secure the string for hanging. I chose to string my oranges very close together because I like that look, but you can make your garland as close together or as far apart as you like. You could also add pine cones in-between oranges as well. Ya slice ’em – ya dry ’em – ya string ’em!
This craft will keep well throughout the holidays if properly dehydrated, but will darken over time. You can also use these to make ornaments a several other holiday gifts. I am going to do a tutorial on a few more ways you can use them around the house, so if you make these be sure not to toss the ends of the oranges! Instead, put them in a jar and cover and cap with distilled white vinegar. I’ll be showing you a simple way to make all-purpose cleaning spray with your orange scraps later on this week.