Tag Archives: Cedro and lemons

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

Citrus fruit is grown extensively in Sicily and citrus groves are found throughout the island region.  Apart from different types of oranges (including the blood oranges) there are mandarins, tangerines, lemons, cedri (citrons) and limette (Sicilian limes).

Orange seller_blog
Market in Syracuse

Sicily is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of citrus especially of lemons; the climate fosters a long, growing season and the harvesting of different varieties of lemons over three distinct periods in the year.

Lemons are extensively used in Sicilian cuisine – fresh lemon juice and the rind (or grated zest) are added to savoury or sweet dishes to balance and enhance flavours and even the leaves are often used in between pieces of meat or fish to add flavour.

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Lemon juice is often used in marinates and to avoid discolouration of fresh fruit and vegetables (for example in fruit salads or when cleaning artichokes).

Lemons are used profusely for making drinks, liqueurs, essences, jams and marmalades. Candied or preserved peel is used significantly in Sicilian pastries and confectionary (for example in cassata and cannoli).

Cedri seller_blog

Used also and mostly in Sicilian pastries is cedro (citron). This citrus fruit grows in Sicily ​​(and Calabria); the fruit is large and spherical with a thick wrinkled skin that turns from green to yellow during ripening. It has a strong fragrance and flavour, even stronger than lemons. The thick peel is candied and the fruit and peel is used to make a sweet paste also used in Sicilian patisserie.

Sicily benefits greatly from the production of lemons. Lemons have anti-bactericidal and antiseptic qualities; they are known for their therapeutic properties and are therefore beneficial in aromatherapy, pharmacology and medical and scientific applications. The essential oils are prominent in perfumes and the cosmetic industry. They are also widely used in cleaning products and citric acid (derived from lemons) is used extensively as a preservative.

The flowers and leaves are used for ornamental purposes. The white and pale violet blossoms have a strong and appealing scent and are often used in bride’s bouquets and  inserted in button holes in men’s jackets at weddings.

When Sicilians (and other southern Italians) came to Australia, one of the first thing they planted was a lemon tree. Many are grafted to produce different types of lemons or different citrus.

You may be familiar with making Sicilian orange salads (especially with blood oranges), but you may not have considered enjoying a Sicilian lemon salad. I particularly like serving a lemon salad as an accompaniment to grilled fish, especially sardines. Last time I made one I presented it to accompany a meat terrine made with pork.

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Large lemons, basket below

Lemon Salad

Use large, mature lemons – the  larger, the more pith, the better. Many of the large lemons are more round in shape.

You will be amazed by the sweetness of the lemon in the salad. The use of salt will make the lemons taste sweeter (just like balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of strawberries).

Peel the skin off the lemons with a potato peeler, leaving as much pith as possible.
Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out some of the juice (otherwise the salad will be too acidic).
Cut the lemons into quarters and then into slices or manageable chunks (slices cut into four).  Remove any pips.
Add finely chopped parsley or mint.
Dress with extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground pepper and salt.

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LEMON MARMALADE TO USE IN SICILIAN PASTRIES. Conserva/ Marmellata di Limone (o di Cedro)

 

LEMON MARMALADE TO USE IN SICILIAN PASTRIES. Conserva/ Marmellata di Limone (o di Cedro).

Lately, I have fallen in love with the delicious Sicilian pastries from Dolcetti made by Marianna Di Bartolo.

DOLCETTI, handmade sweet things (223 Victoria St, West Melbourne).

 

Dolcetti means little sweets in Italian (it implies exquisite little morsels) and my frequent visits to this pasticceria has revived my desire for that distinctive, strong citrus taste present in many Sicilian desserts.

Sicilians produce a large range and quantities of citrus. One of the citrus is the cedro (citron). Cedri (plural) look like very large lemons and they have very thick skins. Sicilians use them fresh to make a salad (dressed with salt, extra virgin olive oil), but most of all they are candied (used for making cassata) or made into a sweet conserva (conserve/ jam/marmalade), especially common for flavouring desserts and placing in the centre of almond pastries.

These may not be cedri, but the size and amount of pith on these lemons is comparable (each lemon weighed approx. 700g each). I decided to treat the lemons like cedri and make a conserva.

Finding a recipe can be an interesting process. I  do not think that I have ever followed a recipe from start to finish; I always enjoy finding and comparing recipes in the various publications, adding what I know and then modifying it to suit my tastes.

Each of the numerous times I have visited Sicily (and Italy), I have bought cookery books – not only by the greats of Sicilian cuisine and highly recognized writers and publications (Coria, Correnti, Taylor Simeti, Tasca Lanza, ….I could go on), but also by the less known ones (Maria Consoli Sardo, Di Leo, D’Alba,….I could go on).

The variations in the recipes (quantities and methods) I found in the different publications for making this preserve were many. Some recipes directed peeling the fruit first, others boiled the peel several times and discarded the water and some added sugar after boiling the pulp; there were almost as many variations for making marmalade as I found in my old Australian publications (for example The older South Australians may remember the Green and Gold Cookery book).

The two recipes I ended up liking the most were: Marmellata di Limone (in Bitter Almonds, Maria Grammatico and Mary Taylor Simeti) and Conserva di Citru (in Profumi di Sicilia, Giuseppe Coria).

Maria Grammatico and Mary Taylor Simeti suggested pricking all of the lemons with a fork, putting them in water and letting them soak for 5 days, changing the water every day.

In Coria’s recipe the lemons were soaked (un-pricked) for 24 hours.

One recipe suggested mincing, the other grating the fruit.

Grammatico / Taylor Simeti suggested weighing the pulp and using 1¼ their weight in sugar. Coria suggested adding 2 kilo of sugar for every 3 kilo of pulp and 1 cup of water, but what I liked about his recipe was the addition of a cinnamon stick which was also mentioned in many other of my older Italian publications (most that do not include amounts of ingredients).

What I did was:
  • pricked the lemons and soaked them for 3 days. I thought that pricking the lemons would soften the skins and it did
  • used a mandoline to slice the lemons into medium sized julienne pieces – I decided I liked texture
  •  reduced the amount of sugar to 1kilo of sugar to 2 kilo of pulp, added 3 cinnamon sticks and no water
  • cooked the pulp until set – mine took about 40 minutes. (You know the old trick about testing jam/ marmalade by placing a little on a cold saucer, cooling it, and if adequately set it should wrinkle and feel firm)
  •  placed the conserva into hot sterilized jars.

The flavour of my conserve is very intense and very lemony, but the texture is a little rubbery (maybe I cooked it too long). I am also disappointed that I am unable to taste the cinnamon and noticed that the sticks also break up during the cooking. I expected the conserve to be a lighter colour – the cinnamon may have contributed to the darker shade.

 

I wanted my conserva to be perfect and to give a jar of it to Marianna. It seemed a fair exchange – my labour of love, for many of hers.

Cedro is used in Cassata and Panforte (not Sicilian).

PANFORTE again and again

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

CASSATA DECONSTRUCTED – a postmodernist take on Sicilian Cassata

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