The very first thing we decided when we decided to settle down is that we wanted natural decorations all over the house for the winter holidays.
Boughs of evergreen with dried orange and apple slices, bundles of cinnamon, and star anise tucked about. Oranges studded with cloves. Cranberry and popcorn garlands.
And y’all it is beautiful.
It turns out that my favorite thing ever is the dried orange slices. They’re so vibrant against the evergreen garlands.
The first time I made them, I was so nervous! I mean sure, the whole process can be summed up with slicing them as thin as possible and then baking on low heat until their dry…but I always overcomplicate things in my head.
Yeah. It really was that simple. I set my oven to convection bake at 200 degrees. I used a serrated knife to cut super thin slices of my baby oranges (the little Cuties). I laid everything out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I flipped the slices every hour for four hours and viola! Perfectly dried orange slices.
The second time I made them, I decided to try navel oranges and apples. I also had a few baby oranges left so it was a good balance of variety. I also used my mandolin.
Every blog post out there raved about the mandolin.
I didn’t like it. I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me. My slices got smooshed. It didn’t cut cleanly. I know the blades are sharp so I honestly have no idea what went wrong. So I went back to my knife.
This second experience was a little different than my first. I still set it to convection bake at 200 degrees. I still flipped every hour. But I didn’t have consistent results.
The apples were beautiful. The baby oranges were beautiful. The navel oranges… They didn’t seem to dry as the others and their color wasn’t as spectacular. Maybe I needed to try them again.
So I decided to give it a third go today. I wanted to dry some orange and lemon slices to keep on hand for added to teas and syrups.
Y’all, it went so bad.
First, I was cocky and didn’t go over any of my instructions. I set the oven to 200 but forgot to turn on the convection setting.
Second, I was rushed. We were in the middle of cleaning out the laundry room downstairs in preparation of moving down the extra refrigerator from the garage. So when I cut my orange slices… Let’s just say they weren’t uniform and they were quite a bit thicker than my previous batches. I slowed down with the lemons and got closer to my desired thinness.
Third, I got distracted. Did I mention we were moving the refrigerator downstairs? That sounds like a simple endeavor but it ended up being anything but simple. We had to take out the freezer that as currently in he basement. We had to remove some shelving. We needed a different dolly. We had to take off the banister. We had to take off the exterior door. We had to take out the exterior door frame and all the surrounding trim.
It was an adventure. An all day, I completely forgot about the citrus in the oven, kind of adventure.
I mean, I did remember to flip them once or twice but they were in there much longer than four hours.
So this batch definitely won’t be going in my witchy cabinet for tea, but I’m sure we’ll try again in a few days.
The main things that I’ve learned are:
- Don’t forget that you have things drying in the oven!
- Use your convection bake setting or cook it lower than 200 degrees.
- Pay attention when you’re slicing. Even if the slices aren’t super thin, they still need to be uniform.
- Flip, flip, flip!
- Take your slices out when they are still vibrant and feel like a fruit roll up in the middle. They should be a wee bendy still.
- Let your slices cool and continue drying overnight on a cooling rack.
Now of course you know that we don’t just decorate with orange slices because they are pretty. We decorate with orange slices to remind us during the dark winter season that the sun will return. And if a little magick gets mixed in with it, so much the better.
Oranges have long been associated with the sun and so it is not surprise to see them used in winter decorations. Several ancestral traditions celebrate the return of the sun god on the winter solstice and there is no sunnier fruit than the orange to herald his coming.
Magickal Properties of Oranges
- Home and business blessings
Dried oranges can be used for more than altars and garlands. Add them to teas, syrups, potions, sugars, and salts. After the holidays, take them outside for the wildlife to feast. Sharing our abundance from nature with nature helps maintain balance and who knows? Maybe one day our Disney promises of woodland creature helpers will come true and a whole generation of kitchen witches will live happily ever after with their forest friends.