Citrus season began last month and continues until March or April, depending on the weather. For the next few weeks, I’ll take the time whenever I am at the grocery store to poke around in the produce department. I’m looking for pink grapefruit, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, pomelos and cara cara oranges. In DIY mode, I plan to take full advantage of the mountains of clementines, mesh bags of mandarins and even lower prices on the everyday Eureka lemon.

Preserving citrus leans heavily on extracting the zest or juice, and it demands the right tool. The zest is the outermost layer of the peel and contains the oils that carry a pure citrus flavor. Below the zest is the white pith, which can have a spongy texture and adds a bitter edge to the zest’s characteristic taste.

While a vegetable peeler can remove the zest and leave the pith behind, recipes for candied peel call for keeping the pith; in that case, a channel knife or stripper is an excellent tool for the job, extracting long, slim pieces of zest and pith together. Other presentations demand the fine wisps created by a garnishing tool called, predictably, a zester. Just about every option can be achieved with a sharp knife and perseverance.

Juicing tools run from basic to complex. A modest reamer is useful for a single lemon but taxing when you’re faced with dozens of them. I prefer a juicer that separates the juice from the pulp and seeds all at once. When a friend sent me a box of lemons from California, I borrowed a clamp-on juicer to dispatch them – and recommend the same when that happens to you.

AN ELEGANT GIFT

The preservation of citrus has a long history. When sailing ships returned to northern climates, they carried in their holds citrus from the south. Clever cooks captured the flavors by drying, candying, salting and jamming. I do the same, centuries later.

If you’re already zesting, you might like to try candying citrus peel. It’s easy, albeit time-consuming, with three blanching rounds and a long simmer in sugar syrup until tender, after which the fruit, dried and sugared, is a great addition to the pantry. Bakers appreciate orange, lemon and grapefruit peel and add it, chopped, to quick breads and scones. I like to dip citrus-peel batons in chocolate; they make an elegant gift. When I spend the time on a winter weekend, I can make enough candied citrus to accommodate a year of finding new ways to use it until next citrus season. Once the peel has simmered in the sugar syrup, the syrup itself is a divine bonus ingredient, useful in cocktails, brushed on baked goods or used to baste meats headed to the barbecue.

More zesting fun: marmalade, the jam made with the juice and zest. Citrus has copious amounts of natural pectin, so achieving a proper gel/set is easy. Keep in mind that, beyond the scone, marmalade makes an excellent base for barbecue sauce and marinades, adding bitter and sweet elements. I like to pair it with mustard for a stunning glaze on a pork roast.

Even when a recipe calls for just the juice of an orange or lemon, I save the zest. Whether I grate it, remove it with a vegetable peeler or use a channel knife, I cannot throw it out. Instead, I add it to the zip-top bag of citrus swaths in the freezer that I’ll later use in stir-fries and marinades.

After measuring for a recipe, I often have a pinch or two of zest still on the cutting board. I tuck that into granulated sugar and use the resulting perfumed sweetener in any baking project, but especially muffins. Or I stir zest into kosher salt with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to DIY a sprinkle for chicken, salad or slices of avocado.

SQUEEZE AND FREEZE

Juice shouldn’t go to waste, either. When you’re zesting fruit for a recipe, squeeze and freeze the juice afterward. Use an ice cube tray to hold 2-tablespoon portions. One cube can give a sauce or soup some zing, ice down a glass of sparkling water or activate fruit’s natural pectin in a jam recipe.

Juice and zest combine with eggs and butter to make curd. While lemon curd is the go-to, I also like to use pink grapefruit, cara caras, Key limes and blood oranges. The delicious spread turns up between layers of cake or atop a cream biscuit served with afternoon tea. Make curd now, freeze it in jars (leave about an inch of head space) and it will keep for six months.

Looking for a savory option? Preserving lemons in salt is de rigueur in Mediterranean cuisine, and I like to preserve limes in salt, as well. I quarter the fruit vertically, fill the centers with kosher salt and pack them into a clean glass jar, pressing down to encourage their natural juices to cover the fruit. (Supplement with additional juice, as needed.) After a week in a cool, dark spot, the citrus will have softened and pickled slightly. After a month, it’s even better. Citrus preserved in salt is shelf-stable if thoroughly submerged in the juice, although its color may fade.

I chop the preserved rind for a piquant addition to poultry and fish. I add chopped preserved lime rind to subtly elevate black bean soup.

Before the season ends, I make sure to put up a few jars of Lemon Squash, intensely flavored with lemon oil, zest and juice. A squash is an old recipe, named for an Indian concentrate of fruit juices. Squashes show up in British preserving books from the early 20th century. A presweetened concentrate, it makes exceptional lemonade by the pitcherful. It is a pantry wonder, stirred into tea, sparkling water, wine or bourbon. The cheerful and sunny flavor is welcome in any season. I make a version with ginger; when a cold is coming on, I put a glug into a hot toddy for an instantly soothing tipple. Make a version with lime, and you’ll be ready for margarita season.

When I can find more-exotic citrus, that’s a bonus. Buddha’s hand has little juice but copious zest, which can be confited (cooked slowly in sugar syrup) and held in the refrigerator to scent tropical cocktails. The zest and juice of yuzu (a Japanese fruit that can be ordered online) combine for an exquisite flavoring for gumdrops or for the fancier pâte de fruits. Kumquats can be pickled. Key limes and shortbread are best friends. Citrus likes savory or sweet, and the opportunities to preserve are numerous.

We are fortunate. There’s no waiting for the sailing ships to arrive with their holds filled with citrus. Lemons are available every day; at this time of the year, when unusual citrus varieties are obtainable, consider the options and put up some of these glorious, sunny flavors for your own pantry.

LEMON SQUASH

Makes 4 half-pint jars, 32 ounces total

Use organic, unwaxed lemons when possible, or scrub conventional lemons, as the rind is integral to the recipe. If you use Meyer lemons, the squash will have a slight floral note.

To zest the fruit, you can use a channel knife, aka a citrus stripper, which has a U-shaped blade to create long, thin strips of citrus zest. If you’re going to can the squash (see Notes, below), you’ll need clean jars and rings, and new lids.

Properly canned lemon squash can be stored at room temperature for up to 12 months. It can be frozen in jars (directly, with plastic lids), leaving a 1-inch head space to allow for expansion, for up to 3 months.

From Cathy Barrow

10 lemons (see headnote)

4 cups water

3 cups sugar

Use a vegetable peeler or channel knife to zest 4 of the lemons. (You don’t have to be too careful about the amount of pith.)

Bring the water to a boil in a large, wide pot over high heat, then add all the lemons, including the zested ones, and the strips of lemon peel. (Depending on the size of your pot, you might have to do this in batches; the fruit must be submerged.) Cook for 2 minutes, then transfer the lemons to a bowl to cool. Reserve 2 cups of the lemon cooking water and the boiled strips of lemon peel in a separate medium saucepan.

When the lemons are cool enough to handle, cut them in half, then juice them into a large liquid measuring cup, straining and discarding the pulp, seeds and spent lemon halves. The yield should be 1 to 1½ cups.

Add the sugar to the lemon cooking water and lemon peels in the saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat; cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Discard the lemon peels, or reserve them for candying (see Notes, below). Stir in the fresh lemon juice until well incorporated.

Fill the jars, leaving a ¼-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims well and place the lids and rings, tightening until just secure. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath, starting timing from the moment the water returns to a boil. Remove the jars from the water bath, setting them upright on a folded towel to cool completely. Make sure the seals are tight before storing, for up to 1 year.

VARIATIONS: To make Lemon Honey Squash, replace 1 cup of the sugar with 1 cup of honey.

To make Ginger Lemon Cold-Be-Gone, cut a 1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger root into coin-size slices and add them to the boiling mixture of lemon water, zest and sugar; discard the ginger after cooking. Stir the cooled mixture into hot water as a cold soother.

To make a bourbon or cognac sidecar, combine 1½ ounces of liquor and 1 ounce of the Lemon Squash. Serve over ice.

NOTES: To make Quick Candied Lemon Strips, boil 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the reserved peels (from the 4 lemons) you used to make the Lemon Squash. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until the strips are tender and somewhat translucent. Drain them and dry on a rack, then toss them in sugar until well coated. The candied strips can be stored in an airtight container between layers of wax paper dusted with a little sugar for up to 1 week. The citrus-flavored syrup is a bonus ingredient that can be used in cocktails, brushed on baked goods or used to baste meats headed to the barbecue; it can be cooled, then refrigerated in an airtight container for several months.

Water-bath canning safely seals high-acid, low-pH foods in jars. The time for processing in the water bath is calculated based on the size of the jar and the consistency and density of the food. For safety’s sake, do not alter the jar size, ingredients, ratios or processing time in any canning recipe. If moved to change any of those factors, simply put the prepared food in the refrigerator and eat it within a week.

ROASTED ORANGE

SALTY CARAMEL TOFU

Makes 6 servings

This recipe takes advantage of the cara cara and blood oranges just now in season, but can be made with navel oranges as well. The sauce, which comes together quickly, is bright and full of umami. It relies on exceptional fish sauce, so use Red Boat or another high-quality fermented variety.

The sauce is great with duck breast; see the Variation below.

From Cathy Barrow, the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton, 2014).

3 14-ounce blocks extra-firm tofu

3 cara cara or blood oranges

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup good-quality fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand

½ cup plain rice vinegar

¼ cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup fresh lime juice

1½ tablespoons finely grated fresh peeled ginger root

1 tablespoon minced, fresh lemon grass

1 cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup grapeseed oil

6 large scallions (white and light-green parts), slivered (½ cup)

¼ cup loosely packed cilantro sprigs

¼ cup minced chives

½ teaspoon unsalted butter

Do this in the sink: Place the blocks of tofu on a board and cover with another board. Top with a 28-ounce can (for weight). Tilt this contraption slightly so the excess moisture in the tofu will be pressed out, and the water will drain away. Drain for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Seat an ovenproof rack in a rimmed baking sheet.

Slice off and discard the tops and bottoms of 2 oranges. Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of zest from the third orange; juice that orange for the ¼ cup you’ll need for this recipe.

Cut each of the 2 remaining oranges horizontally into 3 thick slices. Rub them with the toasted sesame oil, then place them on the baking sheet rack; roast for 25 minutes, until the edges are caramelized and their surfaces are bubbling. Let them cool.

Combine the reserved orange-peel strips, dark brown sugar, fish sauce, rice vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, ginger and lemon grass in a large, wide, straight-sided saute pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the roasted orange slices, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by half, to form a caramel sauce.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch, salt and pepper on a plate. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large, wide saute pan over medium-high heat. Line a plate with layers of paper towels.

Cut each drained block of tofu into 4 equal slices and use more paper towels to pat the tofu dry. Press each one into the cornstarch mixture, making sure the tofu is completely coated and shaking off any excess.

Once the grapeseed oil is shimmering, working in batches as needed, pan-fry the tofu blocks on the first side for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned, then turn them over and cook on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Stir the caramel sauce; if it is not thick and spoonable, like a warm chocolate sauce, increase the heat to medium and cook further to reduce it to the right consistency.

When ready to serve, combine the slivered scallions, cilantro sprigs and chives in a bowl. Add all but a pinch or two to the sauce, reserving the rest as a garnish. Cook the sauce for 1 minute, then stir in the butter, which will make the sauce shiny. Add the tofu pieces; use tongs to turn them over a few times, making sure each one is coated thoroughly with sauce.

On each warmed plate, place 1 roasted orange slice and 2 slices of tofu. Generously spoon the sauce over the tofu; garnish with the reserved scallions, cilantro and chives. Serve warm.

VARIATION: To make Roasted Orange Salty Caramel Duck Breasts, use a sharp knife to score the fat sides of 6 chilled duck breasts (about 8 ounces each), creating a shallow crosshatch pattern. (Do not season the duck breasts.)

Arrange 3 duck breasts fat side down in each of two ovenproof saute pans (cast iron is perfect) over medium heat, cooking until they release easily from the pan, a fair amount of fat has rendered and the skins are toasty brown, about 8 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over; transfer the two pans to the oven and roast at 400 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the duck breast registers 150 degrees (medium-rare) on an instant-read thermometer.

Let the duck breasts rest while you finish the sauce (as in the steps above). To serve, cut the duck breasts into ½-inch slices and fan out over the roasted orange slices. Spoon the sauce generously over the duck, and garnish as in the recipe above.