Wednesday, December 16, 2009

if you want to go where they chain up the sun

Anyone who knows me outside this blog knows that I love citrus fruit.  I mean, my love for it is kind of ridiculous.  Sure, yes, an orange is terrific, or a grapefruit half for breakfast, or some key lime pie.  Lemonade iced tea, aka half and half, aka the Arnold Palmer, depending on where you live.  Margaritas, made correctly with fresh lime juice, not some weird bottled mix.  And so on.

But I tend to take it further.  My love of citrus approaches reverence.  Unfortunately, I live in New Hampshire.  There is not much variety, and too often what you find on the shelves is dry or bland.  Even in the best case scenarios, it's waxed, which is a nuisance if, like me, you regularly candy fruit or use it in liqueurs.

Last year, flush with a wider and woolier revenue stream than I currently enjoy, I bought citrus from several different orchards, the highlights of which were the variety assortments from Friends Ranches and the many offerings from Rising C Ranches (aka Ripe To You, mentioned in the comment discussion about yuzu, which in fact I've now ordered).  This is not a "free stuff" post or anything -- there are a LOT of online citrus sources out there, and these happen to be the two I've had the most luck with.  Friends has particularly good prices, relative to the quality and variety; Ripe To You's selling point is the exotic citrus fruit they sell that few other people do.

For instance, last year, in addition to some lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, I bought Rangpur limes, limequats, Bergamot oranges, Seville oranges, kaffir limes, and a wide variety of mandarin oranges.  I also bought these, which I've picked up again this year:


Calamondin are also known as kalamansi, though I've heard some rumbling that they're not the exact same thing; maybe they're two very similar varieties, I don't know.  (I have bought fruit labeled as each, and the distinctive flavor is there in both, but it is true that the fruit sold as kalamansi was noticeably smaller than the fruit sold as calamondin.)  It might well be my favorite citrus fruit -- which logically makes it my favorite fruit, and thus my favorite food.

Bill, what the hell is a calamondin, you're thinking.

Well, it looks like a small orange, as you can see.  The peel is sweet and edible, like a kumquat, and it's a hybrid between a kumquat and an unknown species.  There are a whole bunch of kumquat hybrids -- limequats are obvious in their parentage -- but the calamondin stands out as having its own distinct flavor.  I've described it to people as "like a cross between a tangerine and a lime," but that isn't quite right (and besides, it also describes the Rangpur lime).  It gets you on the right track, though -- there is definitely a "tangerine-ness" to the flavor.  It's nearly as tart as lemons and limes -- technically you can eat it out of hand, but it'll make your mouth pucker like a Warhead.  (I do it anyway.)  It's not until you juice it and try to substitute the juice for lemon or lime juice that you realize it's not quite as sour as them, and that if you're using it in a cocktail, you'll need slightly less sweetener.

It does make fantastic cocktails, in fact.  I've been working on a "winter margarita" using seasonal citrus and winter-appropriate spices, but it's not ready for the public yet; suffice to say a couple drafts have been made with calamondin juice.  

What it goes terrifically with is Aperol.  I'll probably have a post on Aperol later, but it's a potable bitter (Amaro) like Campari, only slightly less bitter, slightly more sweet, and with a far more pronounced orange flavor.  The "homemade Campari" I made a few years ago was in fact very similar to Aperol, I just didn't know it at the time.  Anyway, Aperol and calamondin juice -- nothing else, no filler like club soda, no need for sugar, just adjust until the sugar in the Aperol balances out the acid in the juice -- is pretty damn amazing, and though I had planned to freeze some of the calamondin juice ... it may not make it.

What else can you do with calamondin?  Marmalade, of course, and you can candy them -- I have a number I'm candying, and after juicing the calamondins, I've been candying the leftover peels as well, to add to yogurt.

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