From Scratch: The tantalizing taste of citrus in winter

I take this time to enjoy citrus season by making homemade lemonade, marmalade and citrus-inspired dishes like Moroccan chicken.

When winter starts to get me, I crave the warm sun and my summer clothing, but the one thing I do enjoy this time of year is fabulous tasting citrus. These past couple weeks, I have been enjoying the extended selection of oranges, grapefruit and lemons in our local grocery stores, such as Blood oranges, Seville oranges, Meyer lemons, Red grapefruit, Tangelos, Kumquats and much more.

I take this time to enjoy citrus season by making homemade lemonade, marmalade and citrus-inspired dishes like Moroccan chicken. At the end of the day, it makes me happy enjoying a great meal with wonderful tasting ingredients even though they are not grown locally. I surrendered seven years ago when I moved here knowing that there are some products we just don’t grow here due to the weather. It’s nice to know we can get our hands on in-season foods when they taste their best. Yes, we do pay a bit more for it, but it’s the flavour that tells me it’s not much longer until my summer craving is satisfied.

My favourite citrus-based food is marmalade. Making marmalade is a bit more work to make than a typical jam, but tastes so much better than many of the jars available on the grocery shelves. Make sure you wash the fruit really well as you are using the skin of the fruit in this recipe. One other tip is that if you have too much liquid in the marmalade, it takes much longer to set and you actually lose flavour. It will become darker and more bitter, but I found that, at times, I did not mind this taste. If you prefer a darker marmalade, you can add a touch of molasses so it does not take away from the flavour of the peels.

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade

(Recipe copyright from Ballymaloe Cookery School.)

This recipe can use Seville oranges when in season. The great thing about this marmalade is that it can be made anytime of year but, like I said, late winter is best for us to get our hands on decent citrus.

• 2 sweet oranges and 2 grapefruit weighing 3 lbs (roughly 1.4 kg) together

• 4 unwaxed lemons (ideally organic)

• 3.6 litres of water

• 6 lbs (roughly 2.7 kg) sugar

Wash the fruit, cut each in half and squeeze out juice. Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon and set aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than length-wise. Put the juice, rind and water in a bowl.

Put the pips and membrane into a muslin bag and add to the bowl. Leave overnight. The following day, simmer the fruits in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1.5 to 2 hours until the peel is really soft. Cover the pan for the first half hour. The liquid should be reduced to between a third and a half of the original volume.

Meanwhile, warm the sugar in a 350 C oven for about 10 minutes. Remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (If the rind is not soft when the sugar is added, no amount of boiling will soften it.) Bring to a boil and keep concentrating until it reaches setting point (105 C), about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and cover while hot.

Enjoy on a gently toasted piece of bread, stir into yogurt, smear on a freshly baked scone or just savour a spoonful of it!

Lara McCormack is one of the owners of From Scratch – A Mountain Kitchen in Fairmont Hot Springs where one can savour fabulous seasonal food, sip from a selection of beverages including B.C. wines and enjoy the views of our gorgeous valley landscape.

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