Orange You Glad
when friends give you fruit
I was the grateful recipient of homegrown citrus twice in the past few weeks. Its my California dream to have a citrus tree of my own – a lemon tree, if I get to choose – but my backyard is currently cement and without fruit. The trees are prolific throughout the state, even way up here in perma-winter fog country, but they’re challenging to grow from sapling into the big ‘ol tree of my dreams. So, whenever a friend or colleague shows up with the grocery bag of lemons, limes and oranges, I’m thrilled.
A couple of bags of homegrown fruit paired with a mix up with my CSA box (which left me with double the winter veggies), resulted in way too much citrus for a household of 2.5 people. I knew I needed to get to the kitchen and start preserving.
Inventory: 4 grapefruit, 3 limes, 5 mandarins, 3 navel oranges, 3 meyer lemons, 12 regular lemons
I started by keeping 5 lemons to the side, knowing that I’d use them in the regular course of cooking dinners for the week. Also, I had some personal chef clients coming up, and I use a good amount of lemon in almost all of my cooking.
I also kept out 2 of the best looking navels and 3 mandarins for my family to eat as snacks.
I cut open the biggest ruby grapefruit and served it for breakfast.
To get to work on the rest of my oversupply, I first zested and juiced everything. I mixed all of the varieties together because, well, I felt like it. But certainly, if you think you’d rather keep things separate that’s probably more useful down the line. Do keep the zest and juice separate for your recipes and storage though.
Now to cook.
I pulled up a favorite recipe for Lemon Poundcake with Yogurt (see below for recipe) and whipped up a double batch in a bundt pan. Once baked, I cut it in half and froze half for another day.
We had an Oscars Viewing Party planned for the weekend, so I decided on a Semifreddo for dessert. Semifreddo is a “fake” ice cream cake. They’re fairly easy to make and don’t require any special equipment. There are hundreds of varieties, but I went *mostly* with a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis, which you can find here. It was easy and came out delicious.
*I substituted regular graham crackers for the amaretti cookies that she uses because I had them on hand. I also used a combination of lime, lemon, grapefruit and orange juices also because that’s what I had on hand. Instead of Limoncello, I used a spalsh of Amaro (an Italian digestif) because, you guessed it, that’s what I had on hand. If you want to leave the liquor out entirely, you can simply omit it.
When the cooking and baking was done, I still had some zest leftover. I spread the zest out on a dry plate and popped that in the freezer for about 30 minutes. In the industry this called IQF: Individually Quick Frozen. Commercial plants will freeze fresh fruits and veggies spread out evenly in one layer until a hard frozen shell forms on the outside then when the items get packed together, they maintain their shape and you can pull one item out at a time rather than having something frozen in a block. Commercial freezers are sub-zero and super powerful, but you can still mimic this technique at home. I do it with chicken breasts, beans, or meatballs often. Just spread the items out on a flat baking sheet and freeze until the outer edges are solid. Then toss everything in one storage bag or container together. Now when you want to use just 1 chicken breast or grab 3 meatballs for a single serving dinner you don’t have to defrost the whole package at once.
Once the zest was frozen, I put in into a storage tupperware for later. By the way, commercially frozen zest is super expensive! Just add a pinch as needed to any recipe. No need to defrost first.
Silicone Mold Juice Cubes
I also had juice leftover. This I poured into my silicone ice cube molds to save for later. Just like with the IQF items, I freeze these into cubes, then I’ll pop them out and storage in a container so that my ice cube mold is free for actual ice or another use. I love these silicone molds. Once you switch over to these, you’ll never go back to those old fashioned ice cube trays. They come in all sorts of cool shapes and the ice comes out so easily. Silicon doesn’t pick up any funky smells or colors, so I even freeze pesto in these trays.
To use the juice cubes, simply add into any recipe. If you’re cooking or baking you’ll probably want to let the juice defrost first. But, if you’re making a smoothie, you can add this citrus kick frozen and blend that way.
CITRUS YOGURT POUNDCAKE RECIPE
I love classic pound cake, but you have to get our your mixer and deal with so many extra dishes. This is a version I make probably 5 times for every one time I make a classic buttery pound cake because it only requires 2 bowls and a whisk. And, we always have yogurt in the fridge.
I also love this with chocolate chips added in at the end and lots of orange zest and juice.
This makes a large bundt pan or TWO 8x5 bread pans. You can definitely cut it in half.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, citrus juice (whatever assortment you like, or all lemon is the classic!), sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla.
- Stir in the dry ingredients.
- Using a large spatula and gentle movements, fold in the oil.
- Spray a bundt pan and dust it with flour. Pour in the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top has a nice golden color. Let cool completely then unmold the pan. You can use a classic powered sugar icing on top, or my preference, simply dust powered sugar over top.