Whether you're lucky enough to have a backyard orange tree or simply couldn't resist a great deal in the produce section, sometimes life can hand you too many oranges. Or at least more than you can conveniently use. Fresh, juicy oranges aren't the most perishable of fruit, but they can begin to lose some of their charm in as little as one week. No worries—the excess can be canned, dried or turned into jam, but freezing is the simplest way to preserve their fresh flavor.
Wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces scrupulously before starting, to minimize the risk of cross contamination. Oranges aren't prone to carrying bacteria, but once cut, they're susceptible to infection from outside, just like other foods.
Wash the oranges carefully under cold running water, using no soap or bleach. Dry them carefully with fresh paper towels and lay them on a clean cutting board.
Peel the oranges and separate them into segments, or slice them crosswise into rounds. For a clean, finished look, cut the peel and outer membrane from the oranges with a sharp knife to reveal the colorful flesh. Cut away the segments from the membranes, leaving the membrane-free flesh (called supremes by chefs) cleaned and ready to use.
Dry Pack Method
Have enough freezer-safe canning jars or food-grade plastic containers to hold the oranges. Wash and rinse them in plenty of hot, soapy water, then dry them with clean paper towels.
Pack the orange segments or slices tightly into each container, arranging them carefully to keep out as much air as possible. The less oxygen in the container, the longer the oranges retain their quality.
Seal the jars or containers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace to allow for the oranges to expand as they freeze.
To speed the freezing process, arrange the jars or containers in a single layer, distributing them evenly around the freezer.
Prepare a heavy, canning-style syrup by boiling 2 parts sugar to 3 parts water, by volume. To speed freezing, the syrup should be at refrigerator temperature when you use it, so do this step ahead of time.
Pack the orange slices or segments into freezer-safe canning jars or food-safe plastic containers.
Pour the cold syrup over the oranges until they're submerged, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of headspace to allow for expansion when they're frozen. Add crumpled wax paper to the top of the jar to submerge the oranges and seal the container.
Arrange the jars or containers in the freezer, leaving plenty of space between them where air can circulate and chill the contents quickly.
Freezing and thawing alters the texture of oranges and can also affect their flavor over time. Thawed oranges are best used in smoothies, jams, fruit cocktails, baking and other desserts in which they can be masked by contrasting textures or a sauce.
Oranges packed in syrup retain their flavor and texture much better than dry-packed oranges. If you'd rather not use a sugar syrup, you can pack them instead in orange juice or an unsweetened syrup made by boiling pectin and water together.
Food scientists at the University of California at Davis advise that navel oranges should not be frozen. They contain a compound that becomes very bitter when frozen and thawed.
Like other frozen foods, oranges remain food-safe indefinitely but are best when consumed within three to six months.