Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Citrus Season

I'm not gonna lie. I'm not a winter person. Just like I'm not a morning person. I wish I could be a bear, so I could just sleep through it.

One of the few good things about this winter is the abundance of citrus -- I'm not exactly sure why, as I think oranges are mainly spring fruits (at least from the limited research I did), but I'm not complaining.

My favorite citrus is probably the honey tangerine; I can't resist its oh-so-sweet tartness. Last week I had the joy of experiencing the sweetest, juiciest red ruby grapefruit I've ever had in my life. I've also had some beautiful -- but sour and dry -- Moro oranges (pictured), run-of-the-mill Navels, bright Cara Caras (also pictured), and Minneolas that have had the most wonderful scent on their peels and whose flesh was juicy, but not very sweet.

For the first time, I attempted to make candied orange (and lime) peels and homemade marmalade. Neither went very well, unfortunately. The candied peels were OK, but I made the mistake of slicing them too thin. The marmalade was a disaster. Practically every recipe I found online for marmalade used the Seville orange, which seems like the only variety of orange I haven't seen this season. I tried to use Moro oranges (since they didn't taste very good, I thought they might make a gorgeous-looking marmalade) and some other type, possibly Navel, and less sugar (seriously, making marmalade uses an appalling amount of sugar -- necessary, as it turns out, because all the peel and pith makes the mixture very bitter). The result was a bitter, goopy mass that didn't resemble lovely orange preserves at all. Oh, the other problem was that the oranges I used didn't have many pips (until last week, I didn't know that was what you called orange seeds), which meant that there wasn't a whole lot of natural gelatin, and I didn't have the powdered kind. So, all in all, one of my more disastrous attempts. I had a lot of fun though, and learned a lot, and plan to try again someday -- maybe when I find Seville oranges.

I have some shots of the attempt at candied citrus peels, which I think would have gone much better had I not sliced them too thinly. It took a really, really long time from the pithing to the slicing to the coating each strand with sugar afterward, so when I attempt this again I'm definitely going to err on the side of thick slices!

The citrus I used:

Sectioning off the peels:

Using a paring knife to get as much pith off as possible:

Gorgeous de-pithed peels:

Thinly sliced and into the pot with just water or possibly water and sugar together; can't remember now:

The peels after they've been boiling in sugared water for awhile:

Cooling on a rack after they've been dusted with sugar:

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