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How to Dehydrate Citrus for Cocktail Garnish in an Air Fryer

Garnishes are a great way to gussy up the curb appeal of a basic cocktail. From the traditional single cherry dipped in a Manhattan to the fresh sprig of mint muddled into a refreshing Mojito, a pretty garnish transforms a simple aperitif into an eye-catching elixir. And one of the most underrated cocktail garnishes? Classic rounds of dehydrated citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and kumquats are perfect for lending beverages an aged and elegant look in seconds. Making your own stash of dehydrated citrus couldn’t be any easier if you have an air fryer with a dehydrator function. Simply slice and dehydrate your fruit on a low heat to remove the moisture from the flesh, thereby creating a stockpile for the next time an unquenchable craving for a picturesque Paloma strikes.

Dehydrating slices of citrus also adds a concentrated burst of flavor to cocktails without adding extra liquid into the equation that can muddy the flavor of an expertly mixed beverage. While it may not have the same aroma as fresh fruit, dried citrus can be studded onto the rim of a cocktail glass or floated directly on top of the alcohol in an identical way. This makes them ideal for adding to drinks that are already fragrant, such as a spiced martini or a rosemary gin fizz. Better yet, your fruit doesn’t have to look flawless before you dehydrate it, which means it’s a great technique for using up lemons that are on the cusp of expiration.

How to dehydrate sliced lemons and lime in an air fryer

Cocktail with dehydrated lime

Wash your citrus fruits well because you’ll be dehydrating them with their peel. While you can remove the peel, bear in mind that this will reduce the radius of your slices (the process of dehydration will cause the citrus to shrink further as the moisture is wicked away). Slice the fruit evenly because each piece needs to dehydrate at the same rate; too thin and they’ll be super-fragile and may burn, but too thick and they’ll take too long to completely dry through. Pat dry your slices with a paper towel and lay them on the crisper plate of your air fryer so they have some space between them before pressing the dehydrate button (it should automatically set to the correct temperature, and the low fan speed means they won’t fly off inside the chamber).  

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If your air fryer doesn’t have a dehydrate function, reduce the temperature to 150 degrees, or the lowest your appliance can go, before allowing the slices to air fry until dry. This can take anything from three to four hours depending on the thickness and variety of fruit you’re using, as well as the model of air fryer. Your dried citrus slices can be kept for up to one year in an airtight container as long as you’ve made sure that they’re completely free from any moisture once dehydrated.

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