Citrus Secrets & Facts
BY ANNE TUOMEY
The tang of citrus is wonderful, but these fruits can sometimes be difficult to deal with. Follow the steps below for zesting, juicing, and creating easy-to-use wedges, pith-free sections, serving bowls, and candied zest.
- Cut the fruit in half length-wise, from pole to pole.
- Cut each half into quarters or eighths, again from pole to pole.
- Slice off the center pith from each wedge. This not only removes the bitter pith but also makes it easier to squeeze out the juice.
There are a number of tools that can be used for zesting citrus. The one you use will be determined by the way you plan to use the zest.
A vegetable peeler produces citrus strips of roughly the same size, which makes them easy to stack and julienne for zest.
A zester can produce two types of zest.
- The small holes on the end of the zester produce soft, curly strings of zest, which are nice for decoration. To use the zester, hold the citrus firmly so that one side is exposed. Position the zester against the top of the fruit and gently pull down, avoiding the white pith.
- Hold the citrus so one full side is exposed. Grasping the peeler horizontally, use a downward motion to remove strips of citrus rind from the top of the fruit to the bottom.
- If you have included much of the bitter white pith with the zest, you can remove it by scraping along the back of the zest with a paring knife.
- The stripper tooth is best for producing long, medium-thick strips of zest. To make these strips, hold the citrus firmly with the top facing up and pull the zester gently around the circumference of the fruit, again avoiding the white pith.
- Stack the rectangular pieces of peel on top of one another and slice them into very thin strips.
- Finely mince the citrus strips for zest pieces that will be more noticeable in texture than those produced by a grater.
This grater produces very thin, nearly transparent zest, almost like a puree, that will melt into whatever it is added to. To use the handheld grater, hold it down against the counter for support. Grate only the colored part of the skin; most of the zest should fall to the counter, but you can remove any that remains with a clean toothbrush or other small brush.
Slice the fruit and arrange it around a platter or use it to garnish a tall glass of water or iced tea.
Using the stripper tooth of a zester, cut strips from pole to pole, leaving some distance in between. (The number of strips and their distance apart determines how decorative the slices will be.) Save the strips for another use.
We tested several methods for increasing the amount of juice you can extract. Based on time and ease of use, we like rolling the fruit on a table or in our hands. Keeping the fruit at room temperature will also help juice extraction. We also tested several manual methods for juicing citrus fruits and found that a wooden reamer, a teardrop-shaped tool with a handle, works the best for extracting the most juice possible. Many recipes call for sections of citrus that have been separated from the membrane that divides them. When you are sectioning, it is important to remove all remnants of white pith, which is rather bitter.
- Place the fruit on a hard surface and firmly roll it back and forth several times with the palm of your hand.
- Cut the fruit in half. Firmly grasp the fruit in one hand while using the pointed tip of the reamer to press in and around the pulp. Continue until all the juice is extracted. Note: If the fruit has seeds, place a mesh strainer over the bowl to catch them as you juice.
- Using a very sharp paring knife, peel in spiral motion to remove the rind, including the white pith. (Using a spiral motion will help retain the “roundness” of the fruit, resulting in a more attractive section.)
- Slice off the top and bottom ends of the fruit.
To extract a small amount of juice without cutting the fruit:
- Insert a skewer into one end of the fruit, turning the skewer around several times to make a hole about 1/8 inch in diameter.
- Squeeze out as much juice as you need, then refrigerate for future use.
- Slip the blade between the membrane and the section and slice to the center, separating one side of the section.
- Slide the blade from the center out along the membrane to completely free the section. Continue until all sections are removed.
- Turn the blade of the knife so that it is facing out and is lined up along the membrane on the opposite side of the section.
- Cut off a thin slice from each end of the fruit to create a steady base on each bowl.
- Slice the fruit in half.
- Use a grapefruit knife to loosen the flesh from the rind, being careful not to cut into the pith. The flesh should easily lift out. The bowls can now be filled with sorbet or ice cream, or you can cut up the flesh and return it to the bowl
A grapefruit knife works best for this task. Because it is curved and serrated, it allows you to closely and cleanly follow the curves between the flesh and the pith all the way down to the bottom of the bowl.
Citrus fruits - Easy Peel
• All fruits are living things.
• Once harvested they have a limited life span.
• Satsumas and Clementines are both easy peelers and each family has many different varieties.
• Satsumas and Clementines have similar flavors, yet one variety may taste quite different from another.
• Some are aromatic, some have a sharper flavor and others are sweeter.
• There are often several varieties available at any one time and having a choice gives the opportunity to select the best eating quality.
Things to Remember
• Easy Peelers are soft citrus.
• Soft fruit does not mean weak fruit and shelf life is unaffected.
• Scarring is harmless.
• Green tinge means fruit is strong and will have good shelf life.
• Skin deterioration is a problem but will not spread to other fruits. Isolate those with a problem.
• Fruit deterioration is a problem and affected fruits should be thrown away.
• Store fruit in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and chemicals.
• Fruit can decay in a matter of days.
• Consume the fruit timely.
Skin Marking / Wind Scarring
When fruit is young and actively growing, it can be easily damaged on the trees, e.g. when wind blows the fruit against the leaves or branches and causes a rub mark or scar. These scars are typically silver or light brown and always dry and firm. They will not lead to decay in the fruit. These injuries can heal themselves as the fruit carries on growing and the eating quality remains unaffected. What ACTION should you take? None - the fruit is healthy - peel and eat as normal.
Color of Fruit
Easy peelers start off green and turn orange as the skin matures. In nature this process is speeded up by the cold nights and warm days of autumn.
Citrus fruits will often reach internal maturity with the right sugar level before the peel begins to turn. During the early part of the season, fruit is picked when still partly green and the color develops naturally afterwards. What ACTION should you take? None - fruits with partly green skins are healthy - peel and eat as normal.
Skin deterioration can be more common at the beginning of the season. These fruits have a more tender peel that is more susceptible to damage which means they will deteriorate more quickly. This is especially true when fruits are subjected to temperature changes, i.e., taken from the cold and kept in a warm area. Affected fruits will appear to have brown skin markings which will grow over time. This can be individual brown pitting or large areas of discoloration. There is no spread from one fruit to another. What ACTION should you take? Although the internal and eating quality is normal, affected fruits should be discarded quickly to avoid contamination of the other fruits in the net.
Some fruit are naturally weaker than others. Nearly all citrus decay results from an injury to the skin in some way (handling and insects for example). The speed of decay can be exacerbated when fruits are subjected to high humidity and temperature changes, i.e., taken from the cold and kept in a warm area. Affected fruit can show decay in several ways - from a spot of deteriorated skin to mushy fruit or a green or white powdery mold. Decay is normally wet and mushy. Internally the fruit will be affected and eventually it will become completely rotten. It is important to keep fruit cool and out of the sun. What ACTION should you take? Don't eat it. Affected fruits should be removed quickly - the remaining fruits in the net can be wiped clean and eaten as normal.