This is a fabulous time to be in Crete if you enjoy citrus fruit. I’ve read that people of Crete eat six times more of these juicy fruits than the average resident of other Mediterranean countries who themselves eat six times more fruit than residents of north European countries. Greek mythology says oranges were the gift of Gaea, Earth, at the wedding of the father of the Gods, Zeus with Hera.
Like European travellers who arrived in the island in the 19th century, I revel in the variety of oranges and lemons of the island. Although the west of Crete is renowned for oranges, we have a good winter crop where I live in the east. Navel oranges, bitter oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, mandarines, kumquats, lemons, bergamot, grapefruits and pink grapefruit are all enjoyed in my village of Kritsa. Although unripe lemons look like limes, I’m not aware of any growing locally.
Citrus colours cheer up a grey day and are so full of vitamin C I feel healthier just by looking at them. Vitamin C is necessary for the growth and repair of body tissues and used in the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
As vitamin C supports a healthy immune system, a deficiency can leave you more susceptible to colds. However, the jury seems to be out over whether taking vitamin C while you have a cold speeds recovery. I’m not taking any chances! While I have the opportunity I shall pick fruit for an instant snack when I pass a tree while walking in the country and gratefully accept gifts from generous neighbours to make fruit based recipes. Off the top of my head I can think of marmalades, lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, lemon chicken, orange and chilli chicken, and a wonderful orange based tonic.
Fellow blogger, Amanda Settle lives on Rhodes where they have an annual orange festival so it’s not surprising that she knows some excellent recipes. One of my favourites is her tumeric, ginger and citrus tea recipe. With Amanda’s kind permission here is the recipe:-
- 2 lemons sliced thinly and quartered
- 1 orange sliced thinly and quartered
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 inches of ginger grated
- 1 cup of local honey
- Thinly slice the lemons and oranges then quarter the slices
- Place in a jar with the rest of the ingredients and mix well
- Leave in the fridge overnight, liquid will come out of the fruit.
- Place a good spoonful of the mixture in bottom of your glass or cup and add hot water.
Keep the jar in the fridge and use daily.
I’m in the mood for recipes now so here are a couple more:-
Ingredients to make 2 x 250 g/9 oz jars
- 4 lemons, zest and juice–if you are not using local lemons make sure they are unwaxed
- 200 g/7 oz caster sugar
- 100 g/3½ oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl.
- Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all the butter melts.
- In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk together. Remove any visible ‘threads’ of egg white.
- As soon as the butter has melted stir in the egg mixture and combine thoroughly.
- Leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools.
- Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
TIP: To sterilise jars, put through the hot cycle of a dishwasher. Or, wash the jars in very hot, soapy water and then place the jars onto a baking tray and slide into an oven set to 150 C/300 F/Gas 3 for 10-15 minutes.
The following recipe for marmalade is courtesy of Steve Daniels who once posted it on his blog Crete Nature. I use it every year but adapt it to whatever fruit is available including blood oranges and grapefruit. I swap the brandy for Metaxa and use raki in grapefruit marmalade. Big navel oranges are great and if I use smaller oranges, I add an extra one or two.
I once spoilt two lots of marmalade by over cooking them and my husband used a lot of effort to chip away at the resulting solid mass to rescue the pans. I treated myself to a jam thermometer to prevent recurrence. However, without a thermometer pop a saucer in the freezer when you start the cooking process. Then, when you think the marmalade is ready, put a teaspoonful of the mixture on the cold saucer. After 30 seconds use a spoon to push it along. If it wrinkles up, then the mixture has reached setting point.
I’ve got a nursery rhyme going round and around in my head now – join in if you wish.
Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St. Clements
I owe you five farthings
Say the bells of St. Martins
When will you pay me?
Say the bells at Old Bailey
When I grow rich
Say the bells at Shoreditch
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I’m sure I don’t know
Says the great bell of Bow