The Joy of Citrus


Winter brings an array of citrus to grocery stores and often at a good price. Oranges, tangerines, Clementines, mandarins, lemons, Meyer lemons, limes and grapefruit delight the senses. There are so many ways to work with citrus, but here I’m focusing on salt and sugar curing, ancient methods of preserving. Both salt and sugar inhibit microbial growth by several means, but primarily by osmosis where water molecules join up with sugar or salt molecules reducing free water necessary for microbial growth. Salt and sugar also have anti-microbial actions, altering the enzymatic activity of microbes and weakening the molecular structure.

Salt-Curing: Preserved Meyer Lemons

January means making a jar of preserved lemons. Middle Eastern cuisine would not exist without preserved lemons. I prefer Meyer lemons but any (preferably organic) lemons will do. Opening, salting and ensuring the lemons are submerged in fresh lemon juice will preserve them in the fridge for a year. They add a fermented taste to recipes that fresh lemons cannot achieve. There are many simple recipes for preserved lemons on trust-worthy internet sites or contact me. Give them a try with chicken, in a bowl of couscous or in a vinaigrette.

Sugar-Curing: Candied Citrus Peel

We often think of candied peel at Christmas but did you know May 4th is National Candied Orange Peel Day? Who knew? Since winter is the time for citrus, why not try your hand at candying (aka sugar curing) the rinds? My friend and I reviewed many recipes so here are tips. Any citrus fruit with thick skins will work well (organic preferred). The key to making good peel is blanching the ¼ inch slices of peel in 4 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat this process again. This will remove the bitterness from the pith of the rind. Make a simple syrup (50% sugar to 50% water) about 2 cups each will be enough for a batch. Heat the syrup until the sugar is dissolved and then simmer the rind for 45 minutes. Remove rind and left drain on a rack for a couple of days. If you want, dust the rind with a small amount of superfine sugar. The rind will last for at least a month in an airtight container. Use it as a great sweet treat, in cakes, breads, muffins, puddings or as garnish. The syrup can also be kept in the fridge. Add a piece of rind and drizzle of syrup to a cup of tea or a scoop of yogurt.

Sugar and salt curing are two ways to preserve citrus fruit when it comes into season. Expand your winter culinary activities and make preserved lemons and candied citrus peel.

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