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What to do with tiny, hard oranges?

We recently moved into a house with a small orange tree in the back, but because of the drought and the previous tenants' neglect, the tree is, well, pathetic. There are now scores of oranges on it, but even at their ripest, they're tiny and hard. Any ideas? I hate to waste all these fresh oranges, but they're not worth the effort to peel to eat straight and not juicy enough to make juice worth the effort.

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    1. I would suggest using them to make marmalade and/or liqueur, since for both of these you mainly need the peel. You could candy the peel, too, but in my opinion that's way more work than it's worth, unless you really love candied orange peel!

      You could also try leaving them on the tree for a while. Citrus fruits can stay on the tree for months, and they tend to get sweeter with time, even if they don't look any riper. Last year our tree was covered with ripe-looking fruit that was too sour too eat in January, but was delicious by May.

      1. if it is drought, those oranges ain't gonna get any better. too dry for nice marmalade.
        i go with the decorative, smell-worthy aspects....

        hey anyone, what about "preserved oranges" like med-style "preserved lemon"? what do you think?

        4 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          Preserved oranges are an interesting idea. The process would soften them, and if they're on the sour side, it might work well. Besides, it sound like there's no need to worry about wasting them on an experiment.

          I still think marmalade could work, since the peel is cooked with water, which would rehydrate it. Again, it couldn't hurt to try. I would make a small batch just as a test , and if it's edible, stick it in the fridge and make a larger batch to put through the canning process.

          1. re: alkapal

            How would one go about trying this? I've never made preserved lemon either, but I'm willing to experiment...

            1. re: thursday

              This is the recipe I use:


              She also has citrus liqueur recipes, which you might want to try. (I use 100-proof vodka rather than grain alcohol when I make liqueurs).

              I was going to include a few more urls, but really, if you do a search on "preserved lemons" you will find a zillion recipes online, all pretty much the same.

              1. re: jlafler

                Thanks for the link--Preserving them sounds interesting, but more so, I'm sure I can get some friends to drink some orange vodka!

          2. May be use them together with some marinade to flavor food for cooking? Like citrus-flavored teriyaki, or citrus ginger, etc.

            You can also slice them and put them into water with cucumber slices to make cucumber-orange water, which I think is in the Chowhound recipe database!

            1. excuse where my head is at, but on first read i thought you asked about hard tiny orgasms.. and i wondered that was doing on chow.....

              preserving them morrocan style sounds interesting.. as does anything using the peel

              1. Take an orange off as you need one for zest. Sometimes, neglected oranges are just too hard even for marmalade, but you can always zest them. I would leave the rest on the tree as long as you can... sometimes they'll turn into something worth juicing (but hardly worth eating). If they're really bad, it makes a nice garbage disposal freshener.

                I have a lemon, orange, and mystery citrus tree in my yard (they came with the house) and the first year I was trying to figure everything out, including the sprinklers and drip system. After a crop of hard, juiceless fruits (and one big thorny good-for-nothing tree), I pruned them all way back, fed them citrus tree food, fixed the drip system and they have bounced back with a vigor. The mystery citrus tree has produced 2 fruits - they look like orange lemons.

                I just wanted to give you encouragement that next year will be much, much better.

                1. As the old saying goes, when you get lemons, make lemonade. Or in this case, orangeade. But not the drink! Since the oranges are small, how about making pommander balls? It's a really old tradition, they smell great, last forever, and if you make them now, they should be perfect as really original and wonderful Christmas/Hannakah gifts next winter! Here's a website for how to make them, but a Google will bring up tons more:

                  With the price of cloves, you probably don't want to turn them all into pommander balls. On the other hand, if you do, you can probably sell them at a nice price to boutiques and linen shops in your area. Bulk cloves may be the cheapest, but sometimes MacFrugals or whatever they call themselves now have spices at a really cheap price.

                  I don't think they will make a decent marmalade. Orange marmalade is traditionally made with Seville oranges, including the thick pith under the zest. But you might experiment to see if you can turn them into an orange jelly. It would probably require extra pectin. And the preserved oranges, a la Morocco, sound interesing. If you try that and it's successful, let us know!