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Published: Monday, 1/5/2009

In search of winter fruit

In the middle of winter, readers may wonder how I found all the fresh fruit we used for the sauces to accompany the article at right on this page.

Of the 12 sauces, only one was made with canned fruit the pitted dark sweet cherries for the Cherry Sauce for March. The eight other fruits used for sauces were fresh. Apples and cranberries are seasonal fall and winter fruits readily available now. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are in season, as are mangoes, a tropical fruit. But, it s amazing to find fresh raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in the winter. (Three of the sauces were sugar or chocolate-based.)

I purchased all of the fruit at local supermarkets.

I was happy to find those Florida strawberries, which were quite red. Early in December, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association announced that the first fruit of the winter strawberry season was being harvested. Florida strawberries are hand-planted in September and harvested beginning in December and continuing through April of each year.

Each carton of Florida-grown strawberries is supposed to have its geographic identification. Berries flavor is best at room temperature, so remove them from the refrigerator an hour or two before serving, advises the association. To help berries retain flavor, texture, and nutrients, avoid washing or removing their caps until ready to use.

That s good advice for other berries, too.

The blueberries I purchased were imported from Argentina. They seemed smaller than many summertime berries that are grown in this country, but they made a very nice sauce for topping cheesecake. (I could also have used frozen blueberries stored in my freezer.) They were also sweet enough to eat raw.

The raspberries were big and as perfect as could be. Driscoll s raspberries come from the Pacific Northwest.

I don t think I ve ever used as many lemons on any one day in my life as I did last Tuesday, when I made the 12 sauces for the cheesecake story. I juiced lemons for Simmered Oranges, Lemon Curd, Raspberry Puree, and Caramelized Apples.

In mid-December, the Sunkist citrus cooperative in California announced there would be an abundance of fresh, juicy lemons. Primed by the warm sunshine, rich soil, and ideal growing conditions in California and Arizona, the crop is big, with lemons that deliver juice and sweet, tart flavor for cooks and consumers.

Preserved lemons are an important ingredient in many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes such as chicken, fragrant lamb, and vegetable tangines. Preserved lemons have been pickled in salt and their own juices. Sunkist says the pickled taste cannot be duplicated with fresh lemon or lime juice.

In addition, lemons can be used in the kitchen to deodorize, remove grease, bleach out stains, and disinfect. When mixed with baking soda, they can remove stains from plastic food-storage containers. A halved lemon dipped in salt or baking powder brightens copper cookware.

The mangoes I used were from Ecuador. While shopping I also saw the Key limes on the shelf, which makes me want to make a Key lime pie. I resisted that temptation, saving the idea for another week.

One of the byproducts of making Lemon Curd, which uses six egg yolks, is six egg whites. Some cooks would make an egg white omelet. Others, myself included, would use all those egg whites as an excuse to make a lemon meringue pie or even a chocolate meringue pie.

Egg whites also make me think of souffles, dacquoise (a dessert of disc-shaped mergingues stacked and filled with whipped cream and served with fruit), and Pavlova, the Australian dessert named after the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova. It has a meringue base topped with whipped cream and fruit such as strawberries, passion fruit, and kiwi.

This all goes to prove that one recipe leads to another.

Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor.

Contact her at: food@theblade.comor 419-724-6155.



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