Orange You Glad You Made These?
As it's been sung, "Everything old is new again."
In the 1980s - 1990s, I subscribed to Country Living magazine, and with every new month, I just about wore out the printed pages mesmerized by the decorator's ideas - especially the holiday editions. In every Christmas edition, there were trees, windows, mantles, and staircases decorated with swags of popcorn, cranberries, and most of all - dried orange slices.
During the Victorian era, and even as late as the 1800s, fresh oranges were considered treasures. Before fast transit and refrigeration, citrus was scarce and expensive, and often only available in larger cities along the railroads. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder referenced her delight in receiving an orange for Christmas in her Little House books about her childhood pioneer life. In the early 1900s, the Sunkist brand was created, making oranges during the Victorian era the symbol of sunny California prosperity and opulence.
It's my belief this rediscovered vintage craft has to do with the quarantined population being bored while reaching deep inside to unearth their crafting gene, as they did with their bread baking gene. Keeping my finger on the pulse of many home decor, DIY, recipe, and craft websites; dried orange slices are the newest trend. It's an affordable craft, and those forgotten shriveled oranges you found in the bottom of the refrigerator vegetable bin can be recycled into ornaments, swags, wreaths, added to a bowl of potpourri, and even tied with twine onto a wrapped present. Also, add other food-like items to your decor such as cranberries and cinnamon sticks or dried pods and cones.
If you have a baking sheet or two and a knife, you can do this easy craft and your house will smell good, too. Save any odds and ends from the oranges for a simmer pot of fruit and spices on the stove.
You just need four ingredients: Oranges, Baking Sheets, Parchment Paper, and Twine. Note that I also sliced up some mandarins that needed some attention.
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Thinly slice oranges into radical cross-sections with a knife. (After I did my first batch, I realized I could have used my mandolin slicer for a more consistent size).
3. Pat the slices dry with a clean dishcloth or paper towels.
4. Lay the slices evenly (about 2" apart) onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
5. Let the orange slices slowly "bake" in the oven for two to three hours until they are no longer wet and sticky. Be sure to check on them after 60-90 minutes or so ensuring they are not burning. (And yes, they are supposed to shrink)
6. Once they have dehydrated, remove them from the oven. Let cool. Note below how the mandarins turned a bit dark, but no problem with me. They still work.
7. After the orange slices have cooled, poke holes into the slices with a knifepoint, chopstick, or a pin to string with twine, butcher string, or a pretty ribbon.
Now, get to crafting! At the very least place the slices in a pretty holiday bowl or basket with pine cones and other special finds from Mother Nature.