January – Citrus Month in California

My Small Blood Orange Tree Bending under the Weight of the Many Fruits

My Small Blood Orange Tree Bending under the Weight of the Many Fruits

In Austria January usually means snow or dreary fog and cold temperatures, so when I moved to California, I was excited about moving to a climate that allowed planting trees that do not lose their leaves over winter (it is still a mystery to me why anyone plants those in a climate that supports palms, citrus trees, and olive tress – all trees that keep their leaves). I am proud to report that my yard does not include a single deciduous tree, which is especially rewarding during fall when neighbors fight with the mounds of leaves in their yards. However, I pay the price during the winter months as I was a little overenthusiastic when planting citrus trees; in January, I have more fruits than I know what to do with. It is a California-problem, and I would have never thought that I would be one of those people who try to give bags of oranges and grapefruits to anyone who comes by for a visit and schlepps bags of the fruits to the office, where plenty of coworkers already had the same idea and the break room sports plenty of “offerings” of homegrown oranges.

Even though most of my citrus trees are in containers (some of them in containers that are too small for them but they still survive and bear fruits), my tiny backyard is a citrus paradise this time of the year: sweet limes, ruby grapefruits, white grapefruits, think-skinned pomelos, sour mandarins, navel oranges, and blood oranges. The backyard seems to be decorated with all the fruits on the trees, on the sidewalk, on the lawn – pretty much anywhere you look. During foggy mornings, the deep orange of the blood oranges seems to glow and reminds me of a line by German author Goethe: “im dunklen Laub die Goldorangen gluehn” (“amongst the dark leaves, golden oranges glow”). The ripe fruits are starting to cover the backyard, and my dog has switched from chasing a tossed tennis ball to running after rolling fruits that I have kicked by accident while walking in the backyard. January is truly the citrus month.

Fuego is trying to figure out what to do with a pomelo in our backyard.

Fuego is trying to figure out what to do with a pomelo in our backyard.

But there are only so many neighbors or friends or coworkers who need another bag of citrus fruits, especially since many have at least one citrus tree of their own, so the fruits are incorporated into more or less every dish in our household. Two current favorites are a cake with whole oranges (not even wasting the peels) and lemon mousse with mixed with berry parfait (to use even more citrus fruits, I now use oranges instead of berries.

The orange cake recipe can be found here (I usually leave out the glace as the cake is moist and sweet enough for me as it is): http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/citrus-recipes/citrus-recipes_3. Sunset Magazine offers 46 more recipes using citrus.

The lemon mousse recipe is a variation of the one taught by Chef Kelly Fong, who led a cooking class at the local Whole Foods:

Rows of Glasses of Lemon Mousse

Rows of Glasses of Lemon Mousse

Ingredients for 4-6 servings:

  • Enough lemons to zest for 1cup juice (zest lemons before juicing)
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 envelope pkg of gelatin (about 2 tsp)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tbsp sugar (for whipping cream)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2-3 cups of berries (or other fresh fruits) of your choice

In a small sauce pan, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, gelatin, sugar, and water. Stir to combine and let the gelatin sit to “bloom” (about 2-3 minutes). Over medium high heat, cook the mixture until the sugar and gelatin dissolve (mixture does not have to boil but may). Remove from the heat, cool, and chill (place the pot in an ice bath for example).

The Lemon Mixture Chilling in an Ice Bath

The Lemon Mixture Chilling in an Ice Bath

In the meantime, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add sugar and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Take 1/3 of the whipped cream and fold into the lemon mixture. Then, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Place a layer of berries on the bottom of a glass bowl or small individual glass dishes and top with the lemon mousse (or create several layers). Put in the refrigerator to set; garnish with a few berries. Enjoy!

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