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Sacramento’s citrus trees are teeming with juicy fruit, and now’s the time to savor their luscious bounty. Stop into your nearest farmers’ market, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op or a grocery store with a good local produce selection to find fresh blood oranges, mandarins, Meyer lemons, kumquats and grapefruits plucked from our region’s trees.
Have fun experimenting with blending the citrus’ juices – our family loves to mix pink grapefruit, orange and tangerine juices together for a unique breakfast beverage. Sprinkle citrus zest into quick breads, barbecue sauces, vinaigrettes, pancakes and winter stews; or whip up a batch of flavorful sorbet or citrus curd (I like to serve the curd with fresh-baked shortbread or ginger cookies) for a simple dessert for friends.
(Note: If you’re interested in learning more about lemons, Slow Food Sacramento is offering a hands-on lemon seminar on February 23rd from 6-9pm. Featuring Kathleen Albiani, a culinary Instructor at the Art Institute, the seminar ($16 per person) will focus on Meyer lemons - items to be prepared include lemon curd, preserved Moroccan lemons a chicken and green olive tagine, lemon marmalade and limoncello. For more information, visit Slow Food Sacramento’s website at http://slowfoodsacramento.com.)
One of the tastiest ways to celebrate the citrus season is by making (and sharing) candied citrus peel. Here’s a great recipe from epicurious.com:
Candied Citrus Peel
Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 lb
12 lemons or 8 navel oranges or 5 pink grapefruit
7 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups water
Food coloring (optional): 3 drops yellow for lemon; 2 drops each of yellow and red for orange; 2 drops yellow and 1 drop red for grapefruit
Special equipment: a candy thermometer
Quarter fruit lengthwise and remove peel (including white pith) in 1 piece from each quarter, reserving fruit for another use.
Cut peel lengthwise into 1/3-inch-wide strips (if using grapefruit, cut peel in half crosswise first). Put peel in a large bowl and cover with cold water, then soak 1 hour. Drain in a colander.
Transfer peel to a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, then drain in colander. Repeat blanching process 2 more times. Cover peel once more with cold water and simmer until skin side is tender, about 30 minutes, then drain in colander.
Cook peel in syrup:
Return pot to stovetop and add 6 cups sugar and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Wash down any sugar crystals clinging to side of pot with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Add food coloring (if using) and boil syrup, uncovered and undisturbed, until it registers 220°F on thermometer, about 30 minutes. Add peel and simmer over low heat until translucent, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let peel stand in syrup, uncovered, at room temperature 8 to 12 hours.
Return syrup with peel to a boil and boil, uncovered and undisturbed, until it registers 226°F on thermometer, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let peel stand in syrup, uncovered, at room temperature 8 to 12 hours.
Return syrup to a boil once more and boil, uncovered and undisturbed, until it registers 228°F on thermometer, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let peel stand in syrup, uncovered, at room temperature 8 to 12 hours.
Dry and coat peel:
Reheat syrup with peel over low heat just until syrup has liquefied (peel will have absorbed most of syrup), then drain peel in colander. Immediately spread peel, separating pieces, on 2 metal racks set in 2 shallow baking pans and dry, uncovered, until just barely sticky, 8 to 24 hours.
Spread 1/2 cup of remaining sugar on a plate and roll each piece of peel in sugar to coat well, then transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Add more sugar as needed to coat remaining peel. (Pour sugar through a medium-mesh sieve occasionally to remove bits of peel and clumps of sugar.) Dry sugared peel on wax paper 1 hour.
• Candied peel keeps, layered between sheets of wax paper, in airtight containers at room temperature 3 months.