Citrus 101

Learn, Primers, Tips & Techniques

Citrus 101

Fresh, juicy citrus is a bright spot in the season’s harvest. Celebrate the bounty with oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and more — read on for our tips!

 

Varieties

 

ORANGES can be sweet or bitter; the sweet ones are best for juicing or eating out of hand, while the bitter ones hold up well to sugar in marmalades and candies. Navel oranges, named for the indentation in the skin at the fruit’s stem end, are easy to peel and virtually seedless, with a sweet and juicy flesh. Smaller Valencia oranges have smooth skin and abundant juice, which is great for drinking and blending into vinaigrettes and sauces. Aromatic blood oranges have a reddish blush on the skin and intensely flavorful, deep red flesh and juice. Mandarin oranges are smaller and less acidic than other varieties, with loose peels and mild flesh.

 

LEMONS have tart juice and oil-rich zest that can flavor all kinds of dishes. Eureka lemons are the most common, known for their thick skins and sharply acidic juice that’s great for dressings. Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, are prized for their sweet, aromatic flesh and juice and thin, soft peel.

 

LIMES are smaller than lemons, with a thin green skin and a more acidic juice. Familiar grocery store varieties are Persian limes, while smaller, rounder Key limes grow in southern Florida; they have a thin skin and lots of seeds and were made famous by the classic Key lime pie.

 

GRAPEFRUITS are a cross between oranges and pomelos. They can be yellow or pink. The former have pale yellow skin, whitish flesh and a tart-sweet flavor; the latter, with an orange-red blush on the skin and pink flesh, are usually sweeter than yellow varieties.

 

TANGELOS are a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo or grapefruit. These sweet-tart fruits look like large oranges with knobs at their stem ends, and they can be used similar to mandarins.

 

POMELOS are ancestors of the grapefruit, with thick, bumpy skins and bittersweet, seedless flesh that ranges from yellow to pink to red. P

 

KUMQUATS look like elongated miniature oranges, and they are usually eaten whole; the sweetness of the skin balances the tartness of the flesh.

 

Tips

 

SELECTING & STORING

 

Choose fruits that feel firm and are heavy for their size, a sign of juiciness. Avoid ones with blemishes or soft spots. Most citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. They will be juicier and sweeter if brought to room temperature before serving.

 

PREPARING

 

Juicing citrus releases the tangy, flavorful juice inside, which can be very tart or very sweet, depending on the fruit. A squirt of lemon juice heightens and brightens a dish, offsetting rich foods and cleansing the palate. Citrus juice makes a great substitute for vinegar in vinaigrettes, and it also works well in sauces and marinades.

 

Zesting the fruits gives you bits of the aromatic peel, rich in essential oils. Citrus zest is a key ingredient in desserts, braises and stews. You can zest in thin strips to use as a garnish, or you can grate it into fine rasps. Just make sure to zest only the outermost part of the rind, as the pith (the white portion under the skin) can taste bitter.

 

Segmenting citrus is the best way to remove the fruit from the pith and membranes, so it’s ready to toss in salads and other dishes. Use a sharp knife to cut a thick slice off the top and the bottom of the fruit, exposing the pulp. Hold the fruit upright and slice off the peel in thick strips, cutting around the contours of the fruit. Hold the peeled fruit over a bowl. Using the knife, carefully cut between the fruit and membrane on either side of each segment to free it, letting it drop into the bowl with the juices. Discard any seeds. Here’s your toolkit:

 

Citrus 101

 

Recipes

 

See some of our favorite ways to use citrus — raw, cooked, baked and preserved.

 

Crostini with Herbed Chèvre and KumquatsCrostini with Herbed Chèvre and Kumquats
This unexpected combination of soft goat cheese and kumquats is delightful; the slightly tangy goat cheese pairs wonderfully with the bright, juicy citrus fruit.
Radicchio, Orange and Hazelnut SaladRadicchio, Orange and Hazelnut Salad
The colors of this salad are dramatic: deep burgundy leaves, orange citrus, white shallot slices and toasty brown nuts. You can use any variety of orange—navels, blood oranges or rosy Cara Caras are all equally delicious.
Halibut with Grapefruit, Parsley and FennelHalibut with Grapefruit, Parsley and Fennel
Halibut is firm and stays nice and juicy when panfried or roasted. Fennel is a natural choice for fish and when paired with citrus, gets even better.
Roasted Beef, Arugula and Tangerine SaladRoasted Beef, Arugula and Tangerine Salad
Here, rich and savory roast beef pairs perfectly with sweet-tart tangerines and peppery arugula for a main course salad.
Pan-Seared Scallops with Sautéed OrangesPan-Seared Scallops with Sautéed Oranges
This colorful winter dish showcases two types of oranges: the standard navel orange and the crimson blood orange, which make a refreshing counterpoint to seared sea scallops.
Meyer Lemon, Spinach and Goat Cheese PizzaMeyer Lemon, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pizza
Thin slices of Meyer lemon lend a pleasant tang to this meatless pizza.
Fusilli with Lemon Zest and RicottaFusilli with Lemon Zest and Ricotta
Here, the juice and zest from Meyer lemons are combined with ricotta cheese and cream to create a delicious meatless pasta sauce.
Ricotta with Blood Orange, Pistachio and HoneyRicotta with Blood Orange, Pistachio and Honey
This simple dessert features creamy ricotta cheese with a few toppings of varied flavors and textures: crunchy pistachios, vibrant pomegranate seeds, flowery honey and, of course, juicy, berry-like blood oranges.
Triple Citrus-Ginger Quick BreadTriple Citrus-Ginger Quick Bread
Zest from three types of citrus fruit—orange lemon and lime—adds a refreshing note to this quick bread, while candied ginger lends a sweet undertone.
Meyer Lemon TartMeyer Lemon Tart
Moravian cookies lend a subtle sweet spice to this bright lemony tart, which makes an impressive ending to a celebratory meal. Our recipe calls for a prepared lemon curd to streamline prep.
Coconut Cupcakes with Lime Curd FillingCoconut Cupcakes with Lime Curd Filling
These moist cakes are filled with a sweet surprise: tangy lime curd. A lime flavored glaze and a dusting of toasted coconut tops them off.
Mile-High Lemon Meringue PieMile-High Lemon Meringue Pie
If you love billowy meringue, this is the pie for you. It is piled extra high above a perfectly tart-sweet, silky smooth lemon filling.
Blood Orange MarmaladeBlood Orange Marmalade
The sweet-tart juice and slightly bitter peel of blood oranges are ideal for marmalade. Use a mandoline, if possible, to slice the oranges thinly.
Meyer Lemon JellyMeyer Lemon Jelly
This simple jelly showcases the distinctive flavor of Meyer lemon. See the full recipe for a twist using fresh lemon verbena leaves.
Candied Grapefruit PeelCandied Grapefruit Peel
This old-fashioned sweet makes a great homemade gift. For a fancy touch, dip about two-thirds of each peel into melted bittersweet chocolate and place on wire racks until the chocolate sets.
Tangerine CurdTangerine Curd
Tangerines and tangelos can be used in this creamy curd. Here, we add a few squeezes of lemon juice to give it some extra zing.
Kumquat-Orange BelliniKumquat-Orange Bellini
Citrus fruits shine in this refreshing cocktail created by Suzanne Goin, the award-winning chef/owner of four Southern California restaurants. For a nonalcoholic version, substitute sparkling water for the sparkling wine.

 

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