When Sue and I first moved in we thought we had a lime tree in the back yard. I was excited at the chance to eat very local. The 'limes' tasted weird in Coronas, but with enough sugar they turned into a pretty decent key lime pie.
Then they got bigger and looked like lemons. So I made a 'lemon' meringue pie which was just awful. I mixed up some terrible lemonade and tried to use the juice in smoothies that were bad all around. Parts of the fruit would end up in the smoothie with the texture and shape of fingernail clippings.
And then the fruits got bigger and seemed more like lumpy grapefruit, except for the thick rind and the still inedible sour flavor of the fruit. As much as I wanted to use the fruit in some way, the only use I could come up with was to pitch them into the compost pile and add some of the peels to the worm bin. But this weekend, thanks to some substantial time on the internet, I figured out the mystery.
The tree is a citron, an ancient fruit from the Middle East known to the Hebrews as etrog. Citron fruit, as I had discovered on my own, is completely worthless. But the rind is excellent for a number of uses. The outer part of the citron makes a terrific zest. The inner part of the rind, the white albedo, has a mild citrus flavor and the texture of a dried apple when eaten raw. Citron oil is pressed from the rind and used as a scent.
So I spent the weekend doing some experimental cooking and ended up with some nice results using just the rinds. I followed this candied citron recipe fairly closely. I probably cut the peels too thin as they tended to break apart in the many boil and rinse cycles. The end product has the texture of a gummy worm and tastes like the sweet inside of a Lemonhead.
At the same time, I boiled about 4 tablespoons of zest with some of the peels and added a considerable amount of sugar. I ended up with a thick syrup with a strong citrus flavor. The original plan was to make Citronade and it might have been pretty decent, but I decided to make citron ice cream. I based the recipe on this one for lemon ice cream, using my citron syrup in place of most of the lemon juice and sugar. At the end, I mixed in some of the candied citron.
The ice cream is by far the best I have made so far. Next time I'll make enough to share, if only as a way to make it up to my friends who thought they were eating key lime pie.
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