Cultivating the Coast - Lessons and tips from Foley's Cooper Farm

Handmade citrus holiday gifts – Organic gardening on the Gulf Coast with Kitti Cooper

Zest the halls: DIY citrus infused olive oil, sugar cubes and more

By Kitti Cooper
Special to Gulf Coast Media
Posted 12/13/23

ABOUT THIS ARTICLE (use with mug) This is part of a bi-weekly series with content exclusive to Gulf Coast Media. Kitti Cooper has over 10 years of agricultural experience, and her dedication extends …

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Cultivating the Coast - Lessons and tips from Foley's Cooper Farm

Handmade citrus holiday gifts – Organic gardening on the Gulf Coast with Kitti Cooper

Zest the halls: DIY citrus infused olive oil, sugar cubes and more


The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to add a burst of freshness to your celebrations than by incorporating citrus fruit into your gift-giving traditions?

Citrus fruits offer a world of possibilities for thoughtful and homemade presents. Let's explore some delightful ideas to infuse your Christmas with the vibrant essence of citrus.

Before you start, remember to only use peels and leaves from unsprayed trees or organically sprayed trees.

Citrus-Infused Olive Oil

Elevate your loved ones' culinary adventures with citrus-infused olive oil.

Tip: Use a coffee filter to strain; no need to buy anything special.

How to make it: Simply combine high-quality olive oil with the zest or peels of oranges, lemons or limes. Strain and bottle the infused oil for a gourmet gift that adds a burst of flavor to salads, marinades and bread dips. Add a recipe card with this gift for how to make this citrus-infused olive oil.


  • Citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges or limes (1 cup crushed citrus leaves can be used in lieu of citrus zest)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Clean, airtight glass bottle or jar


  • Wash and dry citrus: Thoroughly wash the citrus fruits to remove any dirt or pesticides. Pat them dry with a clean towel.
  • Zest the citrus: Use a zester or a fine grater to remove the colored outer part of the citrus peel, avoiding the bitter white pith beneath. Aim for long, thin strips or small zest pieces.
  • Prepare the bottle: Ensure your glass bottle or jar is clean and completely dry. Using a funnel, place the citrus zest into the bottle.
  • Heat olive oil: In a small saucepan, gently heat the extra virgin olive oil over low to medium heat. Avoid overheating; you only need it warm, not boiling.
  • Combine oil and citrus zest: Pour the warmed olive oil over the citrus zest in the bottle. Ensure that the zest is fully submerged in the oil.
  • Seal the bottle: Seal the bottle tightly to prevent air from entering. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Infusion period: Let the citrus-infused olive oil sit in a cool, dark place for at least a week to allow the flavors to meld. The longer it infuses, the more robust the citrus flavor will become.
  • Strain the oil: After the desired infusion period, strain the oil to remove the citrus zest. You can use a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter for this.
  • Transfer and store: Transfer the strained citrus-infused olive oil into a clean, dry bottle or jar. Store it in a cool, dark place to maintain its freshness.
  • Label the bottle: Label the bottle with the type of citrus used and the date of infusion. This helps you keep track of the oil's flavor profile and shelf life.

Citrus-Printed Tea Towels

Add a touch of citrusy charm to the kitchen with DIY tea towels. These citrus-printed towels add a pop of color to any kitchen.

Tip: Use letter stencils or hand-paint the year gifted to make it memorable or silly citrus puns.

How to make it: Cut a citrus fruit in half, dip it in fabric paint, and stamp it onto plain tea towels. Allow them to dry, and tie them together with a ribbon for a charming gift.



Citrus-Infused Sugar Cubes

Create citrus-infused sugar cubes by mixing sugar with citrus zest. Mold them into cubes and let them dry.

Tip: Package them in decorative boxes and gift with a dried tea blend or a tea cup set.

How to make it: Slowly add water to sugar until you get a sand texture, then put into a silicone mold or ice cube tray. Cover tightly and let sit for 24 hours. After sugar has re-crystalized, they can be stored in an air-tight jar or bag in your pantry.

Citrus-Scented Candles

Light up the holiday season with the invigorating aroma of citrus. Make your own scented candles by incorporating homemade citrus essential oils or dried citrus peels into the wax.

Tip: Place them in festive Christmas mugs or a mini terra cotta pot for an upcycled and handmade gift.

Citrus-Infused Sugar Scrub

Create a luxurious sugar scrub by combining granulated sugar, coconut oil and citrus zest. This delightful scrub exfoliates and moisturizes, leaving the skin feeling soft and refreshed.

Tip: Package it in charming jars for a pampering Christmas treat.

Citrus-Infused Honey

Combine citrus peels with honey for a flavorful twist. Let the mixture sit for a few days, then strain out the peels. The infused honey can be a delightful addition to teas or drizzled over desserts.

Tip: This is also a great way to knock a cold out fast with the potency of vitamin C and the power house of healing benefits of honey combined.

Citrus Herb Salt Blend

Create a custom citrus herb salt blend by combining dried citrus zest with sea salt and herbs like rosemary or thyme. Present it in a decorative salt grinder or small jars.

Tip: This also makes a great popcorn seasoning to pair with a movie night gift box. The same can also be done with sugar and vanilla beans for a sweet sugar blend combo!

Citrus-Flavored Chocolate Bark

For the chocolate enthusiasts in your life, consider making citrus-flavored chocolate bark.

How to make it: Melt dark chocolate, stir in citrus zest, and sprinkle with nuts or dried fruits. Break it into festive pieces for a delectable and visually stunning gift.

Citrus-Infused Cocktail Kit

Assemble a citrus-infused cocktail kit for the mixologists on your gift list. Include homemade citrus leaf simple syrup, mini bottles of citrus-flavored spirits such as handmade limoncello, a citrus juicer and some creative cocktail recipes. It's a fun and interactive gift that brings the joy of mixology to the holidays.



See more organic gardening tips from Cooper on taking care of your citrus trees during winter.