It’s not officially National Citrus Month, but it is the peak citrus season and this is the time to enjoy a plethora of healthy, juicy, luscious citrus varieties.
Admittedly, I often find myself mentioning citrus when writing a January column. So, in the interest of keeping you from saying, “not citrus again,” I experimented with recipes and looked at what’s available in the citrus world.
Before going further, I’d like to remind you that citrus is a delicious and easy way to get your daily Vitamin C. Citrus also has been associated with heart health and is a satisfying high fiber, low calorie way to stave off a hunger attack.
Check out all the citrus varieties at your favorite grocery stores. It used to be there was the standard oranges, tangerines, tangelos and grapefruit. These days the varieties available continue to grow and it is fun to try some of newer ones.
My mother became a tester without knowing it when she grabbed a couple oranges she assumed were the navels she loved. When she opened one, she was surprised to find a beautiful pinkish flesh bursting with wonderful flavor. She learned it was a Cara Cara navel and now she seeks them out.
Along with Vitamin C, the Cara Cara has almost 30 percent of your daily Vitamin A with a lower acidity. The pink color indicates the presence of the powerful antioxidant lycopene.
Grapefruit has also seen some variety come into stores. The pink, red and even the white grapefruit’s flavors available today can be so mild, they don’t need an added touch — my Dad used to sprinkle his grapefruit with sugar or salt.
The giant, thick-skinned Pumelo grapefruit, with its less acidic, sweet flavor were once hard to find, but they’re out there now along with newer varieties: Melo Gold and Oro Blancos.
Newest in citrus world are snack size oranges. Check out Lil Snappers, which are marketed as kid-sized fruit “for small hands and mouths.” There are Lil Snappers bags of Cara Cara and other citrus fruit, such as the Moro blood orange.
The blood orange has a more reddish tint on the outside and a red/maroon color inside. Its rich flavor seems to have a hint of fresh raspberry.
Tangerines and tangelos also can be found in small sizes as well as the standard ones.
All these different kinds of citrus can be used in everything from main dishes, snacks, baked goods, salads/side dishes and desserts.
Here are some of the best ideas I found after flinging citrus around the kitchen for an intense testing time.
In fact, every time my Guinea pig/husband Fred walked in the door I welcomed him with a spoon of citrus this, a fork full of citrus that, some he never thought possible.
1. Citrus Salt. My thanks to Joan Wickham with Sunkist.com for her assistance and permission to use this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Toss together 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, 2 tablespoons or orange zest and 1/2 cup kosher or course flake sea salt and place on a baking sheet.
I shook the sheet to spread the ingredients over the sheet. Place in the oven for 4–6 hours, until totally dried. I stirred the mixture a couple times.
Cool and store in a tightly-covered jar and looks pretty in a jam or jelly jar.
The second time I made this, I really packed my tablespoon with the zest and even added a little more.
I’ll be making this for stocking-stuffers next Christmas.
2. Ham sandwich. Use a slice of good whole grain bread, leaf lettuce and slice of ham topped with slices of either Cara Cara or pink grapefruit and a couple rings of onion.
3. Salad. Mix dark greens, toasted pecans, supremed (see tips for information on supremed) of orange, grapefruit or tangerine and jicama strips. For the dressing, add orange juice (to taste) to a Zesty Italian dressing.
4. Dried citrus. This is another idea from Sunkist. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Wash and cut Cara Cara and navel oranges into 1/4-inch thick slices (recipe calls for 1/8th to 1/4th). Place slices on baking trays over two layers of paper towels to absorb juices and layer the towels and fruit in a stack.
After that you place parchment paper on cookie sheets, and place slices in single layer and put in the oven. After three hours, turn slices over onto a new parchment paper sheet and put them back into the oven for even baking on both slices.
After my first batch, I contacted Wickham with Sunkist who recommend checking the fruit frequently after 3 hours. Total bake time is dependent on thickness of the fruit and also desired crispness. For a slight chewy center, bake for less time.
I also dried grapefruit and tiny tangerines that were getting on the hard side but were still juicy on the inside.
Dried citrus can be used as gluten free crackers, snacks or to garnish dishes. Add to water or to hot or cold tea.
5. Sauce for pulled pork. I added orange juice and zest to a bottled barbecue sauce for Crock-Pot pulled pork. Yum.
6. Plain, but elegantly served. I put supremed citrus in wine glasses for a holiday brunch. It added a party feel with good taste.
7. Snack wheels. While working in an office building where many, not so healthy, snacks, appeared at the coffee stations, I took action. I didn’t peel oranges and grapefruit but just sliced them into wheels, cut wheels half and then quarters or more pie shaped slices, depending on size of fruit and laid out filled plates. How fast they disappeared. Make them easy to eat and they will come, whoever they are including the kids!
8. Citrus Angel Food Cake. This was a huge success!
Years ago, I started making flavored angel food cakes. I first used the one bowl angel cake mix and substituted Merlot wine for the water. It turned into not only a beautiful cake but a delicious one, as well.
I even added a little Merlot and brown sugar to the whipped cream that I served with it.
I later made angel food cakes using liquefied (I did that in a blender) fresh cantaloupe, watermelon, raspberries and strawberries.
Last week, I tried fresh orange juice instead of the water called for in the mix. Strain the juice if it contains lots of pulp. The cake had a beautiful orange tint. (Tip: Be sure to use a mix’s high altitude recommendations.)
I also whipped cream with 1–2 tablespoons sugar and slowly added about 2 tablespoons of orange juice, slowly, when three-quarters done whipping. Then I continued whipping until done.
Frosted the top of cake with that whipped cream, add some orange zest curls and dried oranges for garnish. I’ll never make a plain angel cake again.