January is just not the best month to find in-season fruit in Canada. But it is an excellent time to enjoy citrus (packed with vitamin C) that is in abundance and easily available! Here are a few tips on how to make the most of citrus season, while these colourful fruits are at their best:
1. When purchasing citrus, look for fruit that is firm, bright in colour and appears to have thin skin. Citrus with a thinner peel, as opposed to a thick spongy peel will have more flesh, and therefore more juice.
2. Avoid citrus that is shrivelled and dry looking, as chances are it is just that.
3. Avoid citrus with brown spots, in particular limes, as brown spots indicate “scald” and can sometimes result in a slightly mouldy flavour.
4. Citrus should be held at room temperature for about a week. After that, it should be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (While citrus will remain edible for longer than two weeks, it will lose its desirable tart flavour and begin to become dry and pithy.)
Freezer tip: Before your citrus is past its prime, juice it and freeze the juice; the flavour far surpasses that of store-bought bottled juices. It can be frozen in a freezer bag or in individual portions such as an ice cube tray. (Ice cube trays should be covered to keep in the freshness.) Individual portions are great to have on hand for cooking and also make an ideal ice cube for a drink.
5. When it comes to juicing citrus, lemons and limes juice best (or yield the most when they are juiced at room temperature).
6. If you keep citrus in the fridge, 30 seconds in the microwave proves to be a quick warming shortcut prior to juicing (but be very careful to let it cool before you touch it or juice it). You can also let it sit in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes just to take the chill off.
7. Pressing down on and rolling your citrus on a hard surface will also help to break up the juice capsules, releasing the liquid from the fruit.
Cooking (with the rind)
8. When using citrus rind in a recipe, a microplane or rasp is an excellent tool as it skims the surface of the citrus, accessing all the zest without reaching the white pith (bitterness lives in the white pith between the rind and the flesh).
9. If you are using the peel in a recipe, remove the white pith from the peel. To do so, lay the peel coloured side down on your counter and run a sharp knife parallel to the citrus, lifting off the pith. When it has all been removed the peel will be slightly translucent.
10. Always be sure to wash your citrus. Many of us make the mistake of not washing our fruit and vegetables if we don’t plan to consume the skin. Bacteria and residual pesticides (especially on citrus which is imported) may live on our citrus. The moment you place that on your cutting board and slice it open, you can cross contaminate with your food.
How to segment a grapefruit:
Originally published January, 2015