KitchInspiration: When Life Gives You Citrons...

A missive from Sardinia:

Dear Clare,
I'm moving into a new house with a massive citron tree covered in ripe fruit. Other than making curd or candied peel, I've got no idea what to do to use them all up.
Sarena

This is a difficult one as I don’t think I’ve ever had a citron. At first I thought you meant lemons but a bit of internet research shows them to be like larger and knoblier with a thickish skin and not much juice. But there are plenty of things to do with lemons, knobbly or otherwise. Shove them inside a chicken before roasting, add the zest to a cake, put a slice i your gin and tonic. Etc. Etc. However, none of these use more than one or two at a time and are therefore no good to you and your glut situation.

I have two suggestions. One savoury, one sweet and potentially boozy. I wouldn’t normally post a recipe I hadn’t tested but I’m afraid this is more speculative than normal, due to the localised nature of your question. Hoping these are useful.

 

1) Preserved Citrons 

Preserved and Quick Pickled Lemons.

Preserved and Quick Pickled Lemons.

Preserved lemons are super easy to make and I assume the basic technique should apply to citrons too. Although I expect you will also need some lemon juice to provide extra liquid. Once you’ve made a few jars they keep for ages and can be added to all sorts of things: salad dressings, dips (lovely in hummus), stews and soups (including this one), roast potatoes, fish dishes, Moroccan tagines and all sorts of  Middle Eastern dishes. Or you could make a pretty label and give them as gifts.

Ingredients

  • Citrons
  • Sea Salt
  • peppercorns
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • A couple of dried chillies
  • (Lemon juice)

Method

  1. Sterilise your jars. Either in a hot cycle of the dishwasher or by boiling in a pan of water for 10 minutes.
  2. Cut the stem end off the citrons. Then make two vertical cuts to make a cross that divides the fruit in quarters almost, but not quite, all the way through.
  3. Open a citron up and place a tablespoon of salt between the quarters. Push it closed again and put it in your jar.
  4. Repeat until the jar is full, squashing the fruit as hard as you can (partly so you can fit more in and partly so they give up any juice they might have). Scatter the peppercorns and a few peeled garlic cloves throughout as you go and squeeze the chillies in too.
  5. Top up with the lemon juice and boiled, cooled water until the fruit in your jar are completely covered. Finish with a final layer of salt and seal.
  6. Leave in a cool dark place for at least a month.

Alternatively, for citrons you don’t have to wait a month for, you could try adapting Ottolenghi’s quick pickling recipe which is ready in 24 hours.


2) Citron Syrup

This is a cheat on my part as it is basically making candied fruit which you said you didn't want. However, bear with me because it’s not the fruit we’re interested in here, it’s the syrup.

Ingredients

  • 500ml water
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 2 (or more, depending on size) citrons

Method

  1. Put the sugar and water in a pan and stir over a medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Chop the citron into small pieces and add to the pan. Turn the heat up and continue to stir until the sugar syrup begins to bubble.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for half an hour.
  4. Strain the syrup into a clean container. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. If you’re really set on not having any candied peel you can throw the fruit away...

Once made it can be used for all sorts of things and I’m thinking would be particularly delicious used in cocktails, perhaps mixed with vodka, soda water and garnished with basil leaves.

Or drizzle it over a cake.

Or, for a granita, mix 200ml syrup with 100ml water and 100ml lemon juice. Freeze this mixture in a clean container, stirring every half an hour or so to dislodge the ice crystals from the sides. Serve when it’s granular but still soft, possibly with a shot of vodka or tequila poured over.

(One more idea, albeit and inedible and unseasonal one, is to turn your citrons into Christmas decorations or potpourri. Slice them into ½ cm rounds and dry in a low oven for two or three hours. When they’re dry, add loops of thread for hanging, or string them together, or just stick them in a bowl, looking pretty, maybe with some orange slices prepared similarly and a cinnamon stick.)