citruspeels-ccflcr-NinaMatthewsPhotography

The holiday season as viewed from your kitchen: cook, bake, clean, take the trash out, repeat. You don’t mind the cooking and baking part, but you’re always looking for ways to cut back on cleaning time and kitchen waste. Here’s how to do both: save (and use!) those lemon peels. Yesterday’s kitchen scraps equal tomorrow’s kitchen savers. Here are five crafty ways to use your old lemon (or orange, if you’ve got ‘em!) peels in the kitchen this holiday season, after squeezing out all that lemon juice over one of your memorable dishes of course.

1.    Zap the holiday crud from your cookware. Easily remove holiday cooking scum (bacon grease, anyone?) from your steel, aluminum or enamel cookware with lemon peels. Toss a large handful into said skillet or pot, along with a few cups of water, and boil for about 20 minutes. Dump out the water and scrub using hot, soapy water (a metal scouring pad if your cookware will permit it!), and watch that cooking scum wash away. But don’t watch too closely — it’s kind of nasty.

2.    Deodorize funky cooking smells from the kitchen. Toss a handful of lemon peels into a small pot, along with some cloves, cinnamon sticks and any of the whole spices you like, and fill it halfway with water. Bring to a boil and leave pot at a gentle simmer — the smell will naturally cleanse out any other, shall we say, more offensive odors, such as chicken fat or burnt cookies. Oi.

3.    Make the whole house smell holiday-fresh. Step aside Yankee Candle, there’s a new perfumery in town. Craft your own potpourri blend with kitchen spices and dried lemon peels. To dry lemon, orange and apple peels, simply place on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F for up to two hours, checking every 30 minutes or so. Place in a decorative bowl with crushed cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, allspice berries, and a few drops of your fave essential oil (can you say holiday gifting?).

4.    Become the pastry chef you always dreamed of. Use your lemon peels as a candied dessert accent, making even your fallen chocolate soufflé look like it was perfected by a French baker. Boil 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar together for a few minutes, then add your peels and simmer them gently until the liquid gets good and syrupy — this will take up to an hour or so, so toss on your fave holiday rom-com and let the magic begin. Halfway through the movie, right when Jude Law starts to jerk at those tear strings, toss your peels in a 200°F oven and let them dry out until the end of the movie, another hour or so. By the end of your cinematic experience, your candied peels will be ready, and you’ll be ready to bake up a storm. Try it in our Holiday Cranberry Pie for dazzling results even Jude Law couldn’t resist.

5.    Become a holiday mixologist. With lemon peels, you can easily make your own infused liquors that will keep long through the New Year. Get a large bottle with a sealable cap (or snug cork) and fill it with a warming, citrusy holiday spice mix to infuse your favorite spirits. Here’s a good formula to try: peels from 3 lemons, 1 large piece of peeled ginger, ¼ cup juniper berries, and 2 tablespoons whole coriander. Combine ingredients with vodka or gin in bottle and seal. Shake every few days; infusion will be ready in about 2 weeks. More of a wine connoisseur? Try the formula in our Rose Geranium Sangria for an equally festive choice. Start your infusion today, and by Christmas time you’ll be getting everyone full of the holiday “spirit.”

image: Nina Matthews Photography