It goes without saying that spring’s citrus makes us want to go outside, do a little jig and praise the coming of warmer weather, bluer skies and long lazy evenings sipping negronis by the sea.
Besides inducing thoughts of sunshine and spring, citrus is also worthy of our praise because a squeeze of citrus lifts almost any recipe, from a sponge cake to BBQ lamb – but if your experience with citrus fruits stop at dropping a wedge of lemon into your G&T, we’re here to help. Read on for tips on buying, storing and using citrus fruits in your cooking.
How to Buy
When buying citrus fruits don’t be afraid to pick the fruit up and get close and personal. Choose blemish free fruit that has bright, colourful skin and that feel heavy for their size. Avoid fruit with bruised, wrinkled or discoloured skins; this indicates that the fruit is old or has been stored incorrectly.
Fruit with thinner, smoother skin is easier to juice, while unwaxed fruit with thicker, rougher skin is best for zesting.
Don’t forget to give the skin a good whiff. Fruit should be fragrant.
How to Store
Most citrus fruits will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days but for best results, store citrus in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Make the most of the times when your favourite citrus fruits, like grapefruit, lemon, oranges and mandarins are in season by preparing and freezing them for later. Freshly squeezed juice and grated peel or zest can be refrigerated or frozen.
Freeze grated peel for when you find yourself citrus-free and in need of some zest for a recipe. Whole citrus fruits should not be frozen, but for a show-stopping dessert, freeze hollowed out citrus rinds filled with grapefruit, lemon or orange sorbet.
How to Cook
The zest of citrus fruits, which refers to the coloured layer of skin, is packed-full of essential oils that add fragrance to sweet and savoury dishes. Give salads a zingy boost with a fine grating of lemon zest as well as a big squeeze of the juice, or make pretty thin strips of lime to toss through a stir-fry.
If you find yourself with spare zest, mix it into some sugar for a fragrant citrus finish to biscuits, porridge or sweet pastries. For recipes calling for both zest and juice, always be sure to remove the zest first, as it’s a much harder task the other way around.
To get the most out of juicing citrus, before cutting, loosen the fruit up by pressing down on it firmly and rolling on your kitchen bench. Microwaving them briefly before squeezing them can also help achieve maximum juiciness. For a quick spritz of juice – for when pan-frying a piece of fish for instance – squeeze the fruit with one hand and hold the other hand underneath the flow of juice to act as a filter to catch the pips.
Peeling & Segmenting
Segments and slices of citrus can counter the richness of a slow-cooked tagine, or can add flavour and texture to a seafood salad. To segment, first remove the top and bottom ends with a serrated knife. Stand the fruit up on one of the flat ends, then cut away the skin and pith together, in strips. Follow the curved sides closely to leave a bare ball of juicy fruit.
Pick the fruit up in your hand over a bowl, and cut closely between the flesh and membranes to free each segment. Catch the juices in the bowl below and squeeze the middle remnants, too.
For slices, hold the fruit steady on one side then cut into cross-sections for perfect rounds.
Now that you are a master zester, it’s time to put your citrus know-how into practice. Here are our favourite citrus recipes
How do you like to cook with citrus? Show us what you’re cooking by snapping a photo, posting on Instagram and using the tags @smudge_eats and #smudgeeats.