13 Recipes to Celebrate Citrus Season
If you’ve looked at a calendar, a thermometer, or a pile of ice and snow lately, it’s time to turn that frown upside down. We may be months away from ripe peaches and strawberries, but winter isn’t devoid of delicious fresh fruits. We are in the middle of citrus season — and that’s a reason to celebrate.
Citrus fruits spend all summer growing but don’t ripen until the temperatures start dropping. It takes cold weather to develop the sugars that makes your oranges sweet and your lemons palatable (fun farmer fact: this is the case with a lot of produce; carrots get much sweeter after a frost). This means that by the time January rolls around and we start falling prey to the winter doldrums and flu viruses, our favorite citrus fruits are there to pick us back up with an orange wedge smile and a shot of Vitamin C.
This year is one to be extra grateful about the citrus in your fruit bowl. With prolonged cold snaps and that pesky polar vortex, citrus farmers are winding up with a lot of fruit they can’t sell. When the juice in the fruit freezes, it forms sharp crystals. These crystals puncture the juice sacs (pulp), and when the fruit thaws, all the juice drains out and you’re left with a dry orange. Nothing is sadder than a dry orange in January, so farmers, who can’t sell consumers juice-less citrus, take a major financial hit. What can you do? Buy the citrus that does make it to the market and then use it to make these recipes. It’s a win-win. Tip: watch this video from Plated to learn how to cut slices of citrus.
Roasted Winter Citrus
Citrus used: Grapefruit, blood oranges, seedless tangerines
You may like eating segments of your citrus fruits as is, but you can take the experience to a new level by roasting the fruit. You can eat them for breakfast on their own, with waffles, with yogurt and granola, or as a side to roasted chicken. Roasting the segments brings out a deeper sweetness, as the heat almost caramelizes the sugars in the fruit. This easy recipe is from Joy the Baker.
Improved Lemon Curd
Citrus used: Lemons
When life throws you lemons, don’t just make lemonade. Make some of David Lebovitz’s Improved Lemon Curd to spread on toast, biscuits, shortbread, as a cake filling, or folded into whipped cream to make lemon cream. Lemon curd is kind of like a custard, but don’t let that scare you off. Part of what makes this recipe “improved” is that rather than fussing over a double-boiler and tempering the eggs, everything is cooked together in a pan over direct (but low) heat. If you’re worried about accidentally winding up with scrambled eggs in lemonade, you can certainly revert to the double-boiler method.
Citrus used: Lemons
If you are going to make lemonade, at least make it a little more interesting. This cocktail from Smitten Kitchen is the perfect winter lemonade because it uses maple syrup, winter citrus, and bourbon. The vanilla and caramel notes in the bourbon play well with the deeper notes of the maple syrup, and the sweetness is cut through with the lemonade. Maple syrup tapping starts in late January and sugaring season usually starts around February or March, depending on how far north your trees are. It’s a north-meets-south truce that would probably have pleased Honest Abe.
Beet and Orange Salad
Citrus used: Oranges
Salads don’t always have greens, and this one from Babble doesn’t miss them. This is a great recipe for beet lovers and the beet-averse alike. Beets are a staple of the winter pantry, and they’re a great storage vegetable, so they’ll be there whenever you’re ready for them. The sweet zestiness of the oranges is tempered by the earthiness of the beets. The earthiness of the beets is toned down by braising them and can be further negated by dry-roasting it in slices. To top it all off, the crumbled goat cheese adds just the right amount of creamy tang.
Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
Citrus used: Grapefruit
For a different and less tired version of lemon pound cake, Deb of Smitten Kitchen traded her lemons for grapefruits, her butter for oil, and her buttermilk for yogurt. The particularly interesting trick she uses here is basically basting the hot-from-the-oven cake in a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and sugar syrup, letting the crumb of the cake fully absorb the liquid, and then glazing it after it has cooled. Though grapefruit has a more delicate flavor in baked goods than other citrus fruits, a little extra zest and this syrup soak do wonders for bringing out the flavor.
Citrus Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Citrus used: Lemons
Lemon and chicken just go together. It’s a match made in poultry heaven — like turkey and stuffing. The rosemary gives the bird a slightly earthy tone that pairs well with the lemon to accent the meat. Though the author of this Food52 recipe cuts into the thigh to test how far along it is, we suggest inserting a meat thermometer in the chicken breast before putting the bird in the oven and cooking to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the thermometer in until your bird has rested for at least 15 minutes; like cutting into the meat, pulling this out before resting will leave you with a sad, dry chicken.
Black Pepper Citrus Cola Syrup
Citrus used: Limes and lemons
Your Soda Stream can be used for so much more than pre-packaged high fructose corn syrup Pepsi look-alikes. To make something impressive and artisanal, try this Black Pepper Citrus Cola Syrup from Food52. Be very careful to not peel the white pith with the strips of lemon zest or your syrup will be very bitter. To best peel strips of citrus, slowly and carefully attack the fruit with a sharp vegetable peeler. It will yield wide but thin strips of zest. Strain the peppercorn, spice, and citrus infusion well (possibly through cheese cloth) before adding it to the sugar.
Browned Butter, Rosemary, and Orange Cornbread
Citrus fruit used: Oranges
Cornbread is good. This recipe from Joy the Baker, though, is — as she would say — bonkers awesome. Browning butter is really permeating the blogosphere these days, and with good reason; it gives a dish caramel notes without the extra sugar. You were going to put butter in this anyway, so you should probably brown it. The concept is simple: melt butter in a light-colored pan over medium heat. When it stops foaming, the milk solids will fall to the bottom and begin to brown. When they’re nice and toasty, take the pan off the heat and pour the butter out of the pan. If you don’t remove the butter from the pan, the residual heat will burn the butter, and no one likes burnt butter. Bonus points if you start browning butter for everything else, too.
The orange zest in this recipe balances the butter nicely, and the rosemary is a great savory note that plays well against the citrus. Your orange will yield more than the two tablespoons of juice the recipe calls for, so you should probably juice the whole thing and make yourself a mimosa. You browned butter, so you deserve it.
The Bristol’s Winter Caipirinha
Citrus used: Limes and kumquats
The Bristol is a restaurant and Lounge in Boston’s Four Seasons Hotel known for being comfortably swanky. They have in-house, dry-aged steaks, hand-rolled pastas, and this cocktail. Serious Eats presents the recipe for this drink, claiming that because of its sour notes, it’s a good alternative for margarita lovers.
Now, to explain some of the more exotic notes of this cocktail. Kumquats are small, grape-sized citrus fruits native to Asia. They’re completely edible — skin, seeds, and all — and are often eaten whole. Much like a sangria, part of the allure of this cocktail is being able to eat the booze-soaked fruit at the end. Cachaça is a Brazillian spirit distilled from sugar cane. In a pinch, a good Puerto Rican white rum will work as a substitute.
Roasted Carrot Soup with Citrus and Cumin
Citrus used: Oranges
Winter may be the best time for a bowl of soup. It’s filling and warm and comforting without necessarily being resolution-breaking. If soup is good for the soul and Vitamin C is good for your immune system, chances are, this soup from Five and Spice is what you should be eating. Roasting the carrots pulls out more sweetness and depth of flavor. The ginger, cumin, and za’atar layer the soup with spice and build heat from the inside out. The orange brings the soup to a new, ethereal plane of existence. It’s not one you should miss.
Citrus Used: Lemons
Preserved lemon is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Moroccan cooking, but don’t limit it to ethnic dishes. Gabby from Essentially Eclectic breaks down the process of preserving your own lemons into easy-to-follow steps. They do need a month to preserve before they’re ready to use, but they’re a great way to extend citrus season and keep your canning skills sharp for summer. When your jars of lemons are ready, they’ll keep in the refrigerator for about two months. Gabby recalls having these diced in a salad, and David Lebovitz suggests tossing them with sauteed green beans or mashing them with softened butter and fresh herbs as a spread for fish or winter squash. Note: Be sure to sterilize your jars well to inhibit any bacterial growth.
Spinach, Feta, and Blood Orange Salad
Citrus used: Blood oranges
Unlike the beet and orange salad from earlier, it’s hard to find people who don’t like the ingredients in this recipe from Joy the Baker. It’s definitely New Year’s Resolution friendly, too. Oranges are packed with Vitamin C, spinach is stuffed with iron, avocado is full of heart healthy fats and amino acids, and feta — feta is delicious.
Fun facts about blood oranges: the red pigment is from a compound called anthocyanin, which turns a brighter shad of red when exposed to acid. It’s also really good at fighting free radicals. The oranges develop anthocyanin and their deep red color because of temperature fluctuation. Traditionally, some of the best blood oranges in the world only grew on one side of Mount Etna in Sicily because of the micro climate there; it was really warm in the direct sunlight on the orange groves half the day, but very cold at night. The effect was sweet, red fruits.
Citrus used: Clementines
Much like Essentially Eclectic’s Preserved Lemons, these Candied Clementines are a great way to bring citrus season with you farther into the year. Brought to us by Saveur from the Canning Queen Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars, this method is even easier and quicker than the preserved lemons, but definitely suited more toward sweet baked goods, as an ice cream topping, or an ingredient in a cocktail than they are to salads and fish. There are only four ingredients — water, clementines, sugar, and a vanilla bean — and the whole thing takes less than an hour. After they set in their jars for a bit, you have both candied fruit and a sweet-but-tart syrup to use! Note: Be sure to sterilize your jars well to inhibit any bacterial growth.