Tuesday, November 16, 2010

anyone will do, could be you

It's that time of year again: citrus season.

Yuzu, Calamondin, Finger Lime

Now, I can't see, as I'm typing, how these photos will look on the blog, but you may need to click through to see the calamondin on the right.  

We have here three of the most interesting and complex-tasting citrus fruits - kaffir lime would be the fourth, I think: the yellow seedy fruit in the back is yuzu, the small orange fruit is calamondin (kalamansi in Filipino), and the odd duck frothing at the mouth is the famous finger lime.

We've talked about the calamondin and yuzu before.  Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit, very seedy, with an extremely fragrant rind that is used to flavor candies and as an ingredient in the condiment yuzukoshuo (yuzu zest and chiles).  The juice, which there isn't a lot of, is tart - not quite as tart as a lemon, but reasonably substituted for it in cocktail recipes.  The taste is sort of lemon-like without the brightness, sort of grapefruit-like, but really its own thing.

Over the past weekend, we made yuzu cocktails - a modified Shaddock, 1 1/2 oz genever, 1 1/2 oz Aperol, 1/2 oz St Germain, 1 oz yuzu juice - as well as yuzu curd with black sesame seeds, yuzu bitters, and yuzu marmalade with black raspberries and Chartreuse.  I would take photos but it's rainy today - nothing'll come out.

(Yuzu bitters: vodka, yuzu zest, cinnamon, anise, gentian, black tea - we'll see how they come out.)

The calamondin couldn't differ more from the yuzu.  Instead of a thick oily rind, the rind is thin, sweet, and edible, like a kumquat's.  It's very juicy, and somewhat reminiscent of a cross between a tangerine and a lime - or a tangerine made as tart as a lime, at least, because the flavor is very much like an intense tangerine, with the addition of acidity.  We had a calamondin pie which is one of the best pies I've made - calamondin juice blended with much of the pulp and rind, sweetened condensed milk, and eggs.  The key lime pie style of pie.  What I love about this model of pie is that you're taking a strong, strong flavor - tart citrus juice - and making it palatable by matching it with equal amounts of sweetness and richness, neither of which cover it up or mask it at all.

Also in the works, calamondin bounce - calamondins steeping in bourbon.

Ah, but the finger lime, the finger lime, those finger limes:

Yuzu, Finger Lime

Originally from Australia, the finger lime cannot be imported to the United States - presumably because of quarantine restrictions, which is common with foreign fruit.  But a small number of finger lime seedlings have been imported to the United States for scientific study over the last hundred years, and in 2004, the University of California citrus collection released finger lime budwood to California nurseries, beginning the first American commercial propagation of the plant.

It takes time for citrus trees to grow, and time for orchards to be established.  At the moment the fruit is difficult to get hold of if you aren't a restaurant, and not easy for them.  But you're going to see these in your supermarket eventually.  This photo shows the whole fruit better:

Yuzu, Calamondin, Finger Lime

I've been trying to get these for years.  So long that I don't even know what my number one item on my wishlist is now - jaboticaba, I guess, which look like grapes but grow directly on the trunks of Brazilian trees so that small mammals can reach them; or thimbleberries, which I've had in jam form but are too fragile to ship fresh.

It's a small, thin fruit about two to four coins in length and a dime in circumference.  When you peel it open, it's filled with small spherical vesicles of juice - all of them fairly dry to the touch, though they like to stick to your hands, the sides of glasses, and whatever else, so it can be hard to gather up a large number of them.  The rind is fragrant and reminds me of kaffir lime quite a bit, or maybe Rangpur.  The vesicles you can crunch and pop in your mouth - the juice is tart, but not as tart as a regular lime, more on the level of a Sour Patch kid.  

It's cool, it's weird, it's fun to eat, it's easy to eat, and it requires no preparation.  The peels dry quickly in this climate once you've scraped the vesicles out, so you can toss them in a bowl of sugar for some fragrant sugar.  The fingerlimes made spectacular marmalade - the best marmalade I've had - and we had a bunch of them in gin and tonics.

Finger limes may end up marketed as caviar limes, super fun happy limes hooray, mega mini limes, who knows.  They come in a variety of rind and pulp colors.  But trust me, under some name, you're going to see them before long, and you're gonna go, "Hey, this is that weird thing Bill was talking about that time."


  1. I'm so curious about these finger limes, going to try Manhattan Fruit Exchange and see if they have any. Where did you get yours, if you don't mind me asking? I've found a place in California that sells small trees (either 1 year old or 2 - 3 years old) but I'd love to just taste them first!

  2. I have a recipe for Octopus salad that calls for Yuzo. I can't find any. Can I substitute Calamondin fruit?