Jul 6, 2023
Freeze-drying citrus, like grapefruit and mandarin, is challenging because of the segments. But getting around it is easy with a bit of practice and dexterity. Here’s how to freeze-dry mandarin, so it’s dry inside and out for long-term storage.
The first thing you do is peel the mandarin to expose the segments. Then take out most of the pith as you can. Although the pith contains fiber, freeze-drying intensifies the pith’s bitterness. Some are okay with it, but others may find it not to their taste.
After peeling the citrus, you can slice them to expose the center. Thin slices are great for faster freeze drying and if you want mandarin chips. Thicker slices are good when you want more flesh with each bite.
To slice the fruit put the fruit with the pedicel part (where the stem used to be) pointing horizontally. Then cut through the fruit crosswise to expose the pulp. The limit of the thickness would be 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Any thicker slice will make it hard for your freeze-dryer to work. If you’re unsure how to measure, just keep the pieces from being higher than the lip of the tray.
We love eating orange segments because you get more pulp in every bite. However, we tried freeze-drying mandarin segments, and the center was still moist. So, here’s what you can do so you don’t experience the same thing as we did.
Now that you removed a segment, the rest will be easy.
What’s great about preparing the mandarin this way is you can also take out the seeds. They don’t freeze dry well, so remember to take them out to prevent spoiling your fruit.
If you have a blender or a juicer, you can also use it to make freeze-dried mandarin juice. Peel the mandarins and slice them in half to take out the seeds unless you choose the seedless variety. Pass them through the juicer if you want a smoother liquid. If you want the extra fiber, use the blender and process the fruits until you get the consistency you want.
This is totally optional because your freeze dryer’s colder than your freezer. But pre-freezing helps maintain a stable temperature when you’re freeze-drying. When introducing a warm food tray, your freeze dryer takes a while to reach temperature. And if you decided to pre-cool your freeze dryer before adding your warm trays, you’ll risk a temperature spike. This destabilizes your freeze dryer, and it would have to work hard to get back to temperature.
For mandarin juice, it’s optional too, but we recommend it. It takes a while to freeze liquid, so you’ll be helping your freeze dryer this way.
If you do decide to pre-freeze, use the same freeze dryer trays you’ll use for freeze-drying your mandarin.
Freeze-drying mandarin can take between 24-38 hours, some even going up to 46. This will depend on the amount of oranges you have or if you have other food that freeze-dries longer.
Everything should be dry, crunchy, and airy to the touch. We recommend you taste a sample, especially the thick, big ones. If you get a fruit that’s still soft and a bit chewy, like gum drops in the middle, put the trays back for 2-6 hours of dry time.
If you freeze-dried mandarin juice, the whole block of tray should be dry and hard. If you scrape it, it comes out like powdered mica.
You can store the slices and segments as they are. For the juice, grind it into a fine powder using your blender or food processor for easy reconstituting.
We always recommend using Mylar bags for easy and long-term storage. Mason jars work best if you use the citrus within weeks or months. Make your stash last longer by adding oxygen absorbers. 1-2 of the 300cc packets would work for every gallon-size container.
Properly stored, your freeze-dried citrus can last 25 years or more. Keep it in a room with a temperature lower than 72°F (22 °C). Store the bags and jars away from direct heat, light, and moisture as well.
What do you plan to do with your freeze-dried mandarin? Let us know in the comment section.
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