Citrus Fruits

 

With their pungent zest, sweet-tasting segments and refreshing tart juices, citrus fruits each have a very distinctive taste. Here's how to use each section correctly to make the most of the fruits.

PEELING AND SLICING

When cutting the peel from citrus fruits, it is important to cut away the bitter white pith with it, leaving the flesh intact. Use a serrated knife if you like, or a chef's knife as shown here, which gives a smoother finish.

1. Cut a slice of peel from both ends of the fruit to expose the flesh. Stand fruit upright and cut away the peel and white pith, following the curve of the fruit.

2. Hold the fruit firmly on its side and cut the flesh crosswise into slices about 3 mm thick, using a gentle sawing action with the knife.

KEEPING SLICES TOGETHER

Some dishes, such as oranges in caramel, require the fruit to be reformed for a neat presentation. Stack slices and secure with a cocktail stick.

SEGMENTING

This very simple technique cuts citrus fruits into neat segments so that none of the tough membrane is included. Work over a plate or bowl to collect the juice as it drips from the fruit.

1. Hold the peeled fruit in one hand. Cut down both sides of one white membrane to the core, using a small knife. Try to leave as little flesh as possible attached to the membrane.

2. Working around the fruit, continue to cut between the membranes and segments, folding the membranes back like the pages of a book as you go to release each segment.

3. Hold the core and membranes over the segments and squeeze tightly in your fist. This will extract as much of the juice from the remaining flesh as possible.

UNUSUAL CITRUS FRUITS

AMALFI LEMON: This southern Italian fruit is much larger than the more common lemon, weighing on average up to 225 g. Available from May until September, it is fully ripened on the tree. Its flesh is juicy and richly flavoured.

BLOOD ORANGE: The distinctive ruby-red flesh and juice are slightly sharper and more strongly flavoured than a standard orange. The sharp refreshing juice can be used to great effect in sorbets and granitas.

CITRON: The thick aromatic peel and pith are the only parts of this fruit that are used - for candied peel and marmalade.

MINEOLA: A hybrid member of the tangerine family, the mineola is the size and colour of an orange but it can be identified by a bulge near the stalk. The skin peels easily and the flesh is sharply flavoured.

ORTANIQUE: A cross between a sweet orange and a tangerine, use just as you would an orange. Ortaniques are delicious whether eaten raw or used in cooked dishes. The thin skin peels easily to reveal sweet juicy flesh.

POMELO: This looks like a large pear-shaped grapefruit with thick skin that is green-yellow in colour; use the sweet-sour flesh as you would grapefruit flesh.

UGLI FRUIT: A hybrid of three other citrus fruits - grapefruit, orange and tangerine - the ugli has an uneven "craggy'' skin that fits loosely around its juicy flesh.

ZESTING

Citrus zest, the coloured part of the peel not the bitter white pith, is aromatic and full of flavour. It can be taken from the fruit in strips or grated, depending on recipe instructions. For the very fine strips of zest shown here, a tool called a zester is used. Scrub the fruit first, to remove any wax coating.

To cut strips of zest, pull zester towards you applying even pressure.

To grate zest, rub fruit over small cutters on grater. Use a brush to remove from grater.

CUTTING JULIENNE

Julienne is a classic French culinary term describing ingredients, such as the lime zest shown here, that have been cut into very thin strips. When using as a decoration, soften the strips first; blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, drain and refresh in cold water, then pat dry.

1. Pare zest strips lengthwise from the fruit using a vegetable peeler.

2. Cut strips lengthwise into very fine shreds with a chef's knife.

EXTRACTING JUICE

Before juicing, roll the whole fruit on the work surface to soften it - this will yield more juice. The old-fashioned wooden juicer, or reamer, used here, is especially good for extracting juice, and can be used for whole or halved fruits. Strain before use to remove pips and membrane.

Cut the fruit crosswise in half. Hold one half over a bowl and push the juicer firmly into the flesh. Turn it back and forth in a twisting motion to release the juice. Repeat with other half.