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Oh, My Darlin’ Clementine

By Herb Gardener.

On murky winter days when skies are, in Henry Miller’s words, the color of milk and lead, we must search for comforting light elsewhere. A creative cook can accentuate warm, bright flavors and in his/her own way illuminate from within. A case in point is Spain’s humble clementine. I consider it no accident that this citrus wonder rhymes with sunshine.

My local megamart starts carrying clementines around mid-December. Because availability in the U.S. coincides with the holidays the fruit is sometimes referred to as “Christmas orange”. Clementines are a superb snack food. The peel yields easily to thumb and fingers, sectioning is a breeze, and seeds are few. The flesh is sweet and acidity modest, more like a tangerine than an orange.

Clementines are typically sold by the dozen or more in small wooden or cardboard crates. You might also find them in mesh bags. From my experience shelf life is limited, so prepare to consume your little darlings soon after purchase. A recipe sure to inspire a sun-splashed reverie is cold citrus soup. Adapted from Joyce LeFray Young’s Tropic Cooking, a collection of Florida and Caribbean restaurant favorites, the soup casts clementines in a starring role.

Five or six clementines
Two or three grapefruit (I prefer ruby)
One cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup currant jelly
Three tablespoons brandy
Sour cream

Peel, seed, and section fruit. (Note: Save the peels. Clementine skin carries flammable oils that make better fireplace kindling than newspaper!) Remove as much pith and connective membrane as possible. This step is especially important for grapefruit. Place fruit in mixing bowl.

Cook sugar, water, jelly and one tablespoon brandy on stovetop, medium heat, for 10-15 minutes to create a syrup. Cool. Pour syrup over citrus sections. Add remaining brandy. Stir and refrigerate for three hours or until fully chilled. Serve in cups with dollop of sour cream. Garnish with julienne strips of citrus peel, if not already combusted.

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Flavors and More Magazine – January 2010

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