The winter solstice is tomorrow, the shortest day of the year. Winter is beginning, and the cold, dark days presage…citrus???
Yep! As illogical as it seems, winter is when citrus ripens in California – strange, when every other fruit tree is hunkering down for the winter. Doubly strange, that a semi-tropical, frost-killed tree should be bearing fruit in cold weather. But there it is: it’s winter, and the citrus is just pouring in.
So here is what Nature (with a little help from UPS) has deposited on my doorstep:
The mandarins and Meyer lemons I bought at the farmer’s market (except for the ones I picked off the baby lemon tree on our patio), the bergamot and Seville oranges I ordered from Ripe To You, a California outfit that specializes in exotic citrus.
This all got triggered off by an attempt to purchase bergamot at my local farmer’s market. I say “attempt” because, although it was labeled as bergamot, it looked more like a small orange and had very little aroma. I got it home, tasted a bit of peel, and promptly gave up on the idea of candying it. So I sat down and ordered some bergamot from Ripe To You, and while I was at it, ordered some Seville oranges as well.
(By the way, while you’ve probably tasted both bergamot and Seville oranges, you may not be familiar with them except as an ingredient. Bergamot peel is used in Earl Grey tea, and Seville oranges are the classic marmalade orange. Their bitter peel offsets the sweetness of the sugar.)
Anyway, they arrived on my doorstep today, and now I’m really regretting not having ordered more. Fourteen bergamots won’t yield more than 2-3 pints (if that) of candied peel, and sixteen Seville oranges probably about the same. Between fruitcake and chocolate, that’s just a one-year supply for me. Since it’s just as time-consuming to make one pint as it is to make six, I’ve missed my opportunity to put up several years’ worth at once. Oh well; I can’t order more because they won’t finish candying before we go out of town. Maybe later this winter…
Meanwhile, I bought some mandarin oranges, planning to use them in marmalade. The Meyer lemons are a puzzlement: when life hands you lemons, what do you do first? Do you make lemonade, candied lemon peel, or lemon marmalade? I want to make all three, but I only have so many lemons, so perhaps I’ll start with lemon marmalade. Or else strip off the peels and juice the naked lemons, thriftily collecting lemonade and candied lemon peel from a single lot of lemons.
All I know is, it will be delicious! And even more delicious in fruitcake, or dipped in chocolate, next year.