Last week, I was overcome with a sudden desire to dry oranges. I didn't have an exact plan of action but nevertheless, I went to the grocery store and bought 3 bags of 5lb navel oranges. 15lbs of oranges, folks. I started baking them at 200 degrees, thinking I could shorten the lengthy baking time suggested online. They burned. And although I was actually quite digging the burned "ombré" effect, I wanted that bright, saturated orange hue. The key was to go lower and slower. After days of drying (yes, days) and the cozy, warm aromas of citrus coming from the kitchen, I pulled out some supplies that I already had in my pantry and craft closet. Who knew some wooden beads, tassels and bay leaves could make such beautiful, festive garlands? This is a great project to do with your kids and an even better gift to give! I also imagine that I'll keep these up in the house for the rest of the winter season, even after the holidays. They're cheerful, fragrant and wonderfully colorful!
Start by drying the oranges. You'll want to give yourself at least a day of drying time as they take about 4-5 hours per batch. Slice the navel oranges into 1/4" slices and lay them, in a single layer, on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment - or even better, directly on top of a cooling rack. Bake at 175 degrees for 4-5 hours until the oranges are crisp dry. You won't any moisture remaining at all since they might develop mold and rot over time. And keep in mind that all ovens are different so be sure to check on them during the baking process every hour or so.
Once your oranges are dried, you can start assembling the garlands. I like using waxed cotton thread because it's extremely strong and the stickiness of the wax helps threading on the elements with ease. Cut double the desired length of your garland. Thread the tassel on and fold the waxed cotton thread in half. Match the ends and give it a good twist.
Thread on a couple of wooden beads.
I like to use a thick and sharp embroidery needle to make holes in the oranges and bay leaves. Make a hole in the center of the orange slices and thread a few on.
Use the needle to poke a hole in the center of the bay leaves. Thread them onto the garland. Note that it's okay to use broken leaves - you won't be able to tell once they're on the garland!
Continue alternating between the oranges, bay leaves and wooden beads.
Finish with a few more wooden beads and then loop the remaining waxed thread.
Tie the loop into a double knot, with the knot as close to the top bead as possible. Trim the excess.
Finish with a velvet bow or just leave as it is. These are great hung on doorknobs or made longer to hang along on a bannister. If the oranges are properly dried, these garlands should last you for years to follow. Just be sure to store them in a dry place!
images by HonestlyWTF