Saturday 1 December 2018

Citrus Redux

Jacob van Hulsdonck, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Pomegranate, 1620-1640
Citrus Bounty, circa 1620
Jacob van Hulsdonck
First our bowls were brimming with sweet and zesty fruit. It was a Veritable Citrus Cornucopia this winter! And then, just like that, this year's fabulous citrus season was done. Now there are just some Valencia oranges and grapefruit, a few mandarins and some eye-wateringly expensive lemons and Tahitian limes on offer in that department when perusing the shelves at the Greengrocery. Boring.

No complaints from me, however (and not just because the mangoes and melons and stone fruit of summer are filling the void and Look!, cherries!), because during those times of plenty, Pipistrello went all out for Preserving for a change.

Alongside the lemony delicious things like syrup and frozen useful bits I shared earlier about these pages, I did add some candied lemon peel to the list, which is very nice with coffee. And a gift of limes were similarly treated, but I forgot to pare the rinds for candying, so that'll be for another time.

Walter Hood Fitch, Kumquat Fruit and Tree botanical illustration, 1874
Fortunately, we love the Fortunella margarita
My love for Fortunella margarita (a.k.a. Nagami kumquat) dates back to some years ago when I was travelling in an Ancient Land and the mother of my girlfriend served them at breakfast with their preserving syrup alongside walnuts and dates, feta-ish cheese and flatbread, and endless cups of tea from the samovar. I was determined to recreate their deliciousness at home and every season they appear I preserve them with vanilla bean and the glorious little nuggets and vanilla-scented syrup make a fabulous accompaniment to yoghurt in the morning or cheese in the evening.

For a twist on brandied kumquats, I made a batch with a bottle of Brazilian Cachaça, as it was what I had to hand. The resulting fruits are not quite as I expected, they're chewier and of a fire-breathing nature (and a different recipe will be employed next time), but we think that they will work skewered on a cocktail stick in a martini, so we could have a carefree Mad Men Party any old day now. The decanted sugar and Cachaça, too, is a rather interesting spirit now and when we are gripped by needing a caipirinha at said party, we are set, otherwise it's a potent drink to sip neat.

H M Brock illustration for Chivers' Old English Marmalade, 1912
Breakfast at our place these days
The Pipistrello roost was gifted a load of Citrus x paradisi (a.k.a. yellow grapefruit), courtesy of the informal communal book exchange in our building's foyer one fine day, so I set about sterilising every jar in the home as I had Marmalade in my sights. While the recipe I use for my kumquat preserve is indeed called a marmalade, I had up until now never made it before. I remember, with a shudder, the smell every year at my secondary school when the girls who took Cooking (Home Economics, please!) spent a week learning to make marmalade, so making it myself was something that never held any charm for me. Until, that is, I laid my hands on Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food, a delightful and well-used recipe book which celebrates the glory days of Fine English Cuisine (yes, there was such a thing), namely Between the Wars and before Rationing turned the tables on England's culinary heritage for decades.

Off to the Greengrocery, I trundled, in search of some oranges and lo! Citrus x aurantium* (a.k.a. Seville oranges) aplenty were to be had! Armed then with these preciously rare, bitter oranges, I consulted Arabella Boxer's recipe, which boils up the fruit whole, and is thus a doddle to make. Twenty jars later, I made a Blue Ribbon-worthy first attempt at Seville Orange & Grapefruit Marmalade and Seville Orange & Ginger Marmalade (plus four jars of Framboise-scented Strawberry Jam, as I was on a roll!). While 24 jars of breakfast preserve seems like a lot for two people to get through, and it is!, it has been rapidly whittled down as they do make handy gifts and I was keen to get a broader Taste Test.

Verdict: I have a new feather to add to my cap: Marmaladière to Friends & Family!

* Back in the Olden Days when the Pipistrello's had a garden of their own, I did valiantly try growing Citrus × aurantium var. myrtifolia, a.k.a. the Chinotto orange, as I fancied trying my hand at making Chinotto. It all came to nought as the tree never flourished. Notwithstanding these failed experiments, next up on the list is an attempt to make my own Tonic Water, as G&T season is almost upon us. A few more citrus bits will be employed for that recipe, too.


  1. Oh, I'm clapping hard and loud, Pipi, well done! Welcome to the world of marmie making. I've never actually attempted such a thing from start to finish but I do assist my very nice husband who is the Cheif Marmalade Maker in residence. It is an annual rite of winter in our household and I am thoroughly looking forward to January where pounds of Seville oranges will be procured, alongside mountains of sugar, and the annual marmalade making event begins.

    I have a kumquat tree that is presently loaded with ripe fruits. I'm half thinking of looking up a recipe and actually using the darn things instead of eating them straight from the tree.

    1. Thank you, CD! I am actually quite chuffed and also slightly surprised at how simple the whole preserving malarky is. And I agree with you, it is an enjoyable event. Not being in possession of a sweet tooth did, however, require me to purchase more sugar than I've ever bought in my entire adult life. Even the regular preserving of kumquats over the years never required me to do any more than top up what sugar I've had in the pantry forever. And I do suggest you try branching out from kumquats au naturel - in a syrup they are delectable!

  2. TONIC WATER!!!!!
    I want that recipe!
    I am going to send SAJ here!YOU two will GREAT ON WONDERFULLY TOGETHER!He too has a BLOG!

    1. I know of whom you speak!! I do follow him and have bookmarked his recipe for pineapple mojito which I've yet to try - always dreaming of delicious things while falling back on the old staples!! He takes majestic photographs ...

      The tonic water recipe can be found here:

      I've got the surprisingly expensive cinchona bark sitting at the ready; just need to get onto it.


  3. What a mouth-watering post, I wish I were on the friends and family list. I must look up Arabella Boxer's recipe.

    1. Why thank you, Rosemary! There's nothing like home-made marmalade, and I can't believe it's taken me nearly my whole life before I can appreciate its delights. I can only blame the shoppe-bought varieties.


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