What’s in the Box, Ep 4: Pearson Ranch California Oranges

A virtual friend of mine owns a small independent citrus farm in California; he goes by Farmer Tony. The other day Farmer Tony posted an article about how the citrus industry is getting affected by COVID-19 so I decided to make a small purchase from him and bought the Exotic Citrus Sampler. Check out my video below!

If you’re one of the lucky few who is still employed over this time, swing on over to his site and order some delicious citrus. His citrus is top notch. You will not be disappointed!

Salt & Pepper Preserved Kumquats

Since salt preserved lemons and oranges do so well in my kitchen, I decided to make salt preserved kumquats with the 5 pounds I had recieved.  I like kumquats as a snack but I can only eat 4 or 5 at a time before I can’t eat anymore and I still had a whole bowl to go.

Since kumquats are so sour, I wanted to mellow them out a bit and make them more savory.  I made about a 1:3 ratio of pepper:kosher salt and used this to salt preserve the kumquats.

First you want to slice off the blossom end of the kumquat and then slice down from the blossom end to the bottom but not all the way through…you want to keep the kumquat intact.  If it’s a big kumquat you want to then make another slice perpendicular to the first slice, all the way but again keeping the kumquat in tact.  Stuff the salt and pepper mixture into the kumquat and place the kumquat in a sterile quart jar.

Make sure you have no cuts on your fingers.  OUCH!
Repeat with each kumquat until you haev filled the quart jar, squishing the kumquats gently down as you go.  Once the kumquats are packed in the jar, place the lid on and let the jar sit for 24 hours.  After 24 hours, fill the quart jar with fresh lemon juice and tuck a bay leaf in the jar.  Let the jar sit for 2 weeks on your counter, flipping the jar every other day or so.  Add more lemon juice to cover the kumquats if it is needed.  After the 2 weeks, place the jar in the fridge.  This will last the same amount of time as preserved lemons and oranges. 

I’m really excited about these little guys.  I think the salt and pepper are going to play really well with the sweetness of the rind and the sourness of the pulp.  I can’t wait to start using them in recipes.
I’m always intrigued by something different!

Homemade Extracts

I do *a lot* of baking hence I use quite a bit of extract.  Extracts can be so expensive to buy in the stores; $3 or more for a tiny bottle of extract.  Because of this, I have started making my own.  My very first extract that I ever made was vanilla extract.  This year, I’m going to make four:  Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, and Vanilla.  I’m a little little nervous about the grapefruit extract because I don’t generally like the taste of grapefruit peel, I find it too bitter, but the cost to make homemade extracts is negligible so I’m going for it!

For extracts I like to use quarter pints.  I feel like using anything larger makes too much extract and wastes a perfectly good jar.

For the citrus extract:  I just took the zest off of 2 lemons, 1 orange, and half a grapefruit and put them in their respective jars.  Fill it up with vodka (90 proof), cover, shake, and keep in a dark place.  Shake every so often.  After a month or so, check the extracts.  If they are at the flavor of your liking, strain and bottle.  If you would like, if it’s too bitter, you can add a teeny, tiny bit of sugar to the extract. 

For the vanilla extract:  I cut the ends off of three vanilla beans and sliced them down the middle.  I then cut them into fourths.  I placed the bean in the jar and filled the jar with vodka, cover, shake, and keep in a dark place.  Shake every so often.  I don’t strain the vanilla bean when the extract is ready to use.  When I bottle the extract, I keep a vanilla bean or two in the bottle.

Top Left: Lemon; Top Right: Orange; Bottom Left: Grapefruit; Bottom Right: Vanilla

Kitchen Tactics: Segmenting Citrus

Segmenting citrus is not my idea of a good time, however, for the sake of quality it is very important to segment citrus for canning (and for some recipes in general).  Keeping the membrane on any citrus will turn your canned product into an overly bitter item that is uneatable and, trust me on this, when you spend time canning a product it sucks to throw it out because it’s unpalatable.  Also, there are  some citrus that have very thick membranes (like grapefruit and pomelo) that just ruins the flavor of the fruit because it’s just too chewy to enjoy.  I love grapefruit but I hate cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon (I know, I’m high maintenance) so when I buy grapefruit, I will segment 2 or 3 of them at a time and then eat them within a few days.

For the sake of example (and because I have 8 pounds in my fridge),  I will show you how to segment citrus using a pomelo.  Pomelos are a very big grapefruit.  In fact, they are  considered the grand-daddy of grapefruit.  Their rind is thick and their pith is extra thick and super spongy.

You will need a boning knife, a bowl, a cutting board, and your beautiful citrus!  Make sure you sharpen your boning knife before hand; the sharper your knife the easier and quicker segmenting your citrus will be (just be sure not to cut yourself)!  Make sure you wash and scrub your citrus and dry it.

First, you will cut the top and bottom of your citrus so that you can lay it flat on one end.  You want to make sure you cut low enough so that you expose the fruit.

My picture taking is questionable in general but this is where my picture taking gets uber-questionable. 
I only have two hands, people!

You’re going to slice down the citrus, following the curvature of the fruit.  Your goal is to just get rid of the membrane.  You will lose some citrus in the process but if your knife is sharp enough, it will be neglible.


Once you finish slicing around the curvature of the citrus, it will look like this.

It’s depressing to see how much fruit is actually inside all that rind.

Now, this is where a sharp knife is important and where I ran out of hands so I have no pictures to show you how to do this particular step.  Sorry!  Holding the fruit over a bowl, you will slice down between the fruit and the membrane down to the core, repeat on the other side of the segment of citrus.  You should be able to scoop out the fruit and let it fall into the bowl.  Hopefully the following picture shows you the gist of what we are trying to do.


The first few times you segment a citrus, it will take you a while to do it and you will be cursing me to the high heavens for even talking you into doing it.  However, with practice, you get really quick at it and something juicy and not fibrous, like a lemon, will be super easy to do.  You’ll work your way all the way around the fruit and will end up with just the core and membranes.


Give it a good squeeze into the bowl and toss it out.  You’ll end up with a bowl of lovely segmented citrus!

A Few of My Favorite Things: Pearson Ranch California Oranges

I adore lemons probably more than any other food, especially of the citrus group.  I grew up in Arizona and always took lemons, well citrus in general, for granted.  They were everywhere and always for free.  Someone somewhere, either at work or in your neighborhood, had a lemon tree that just grew too many lemons.

No more scurvy for me!  Yar!

Then I moved to Maryland and the the lemon party was over.  WHAT?!  How do these people live without lemons?!  I didn’t even know it was possible.  Lemons are worth their weight in gold here.  The sad thing is, citrus in Maryland are generally in a sad state.  By the time they are picked by the corporate Florida farms, then boxed, shipped to a distribution corporation, trucked to Maryland, distributed to the grocery store, wait in the grocery store cold room, make it to the shelves, to *finally* get picked by a customer, the citrus are dried and shriveled.  It’s really quite sad.  That should not be the life of a citrus fruit.  The citrus you can find from the Farmer’s Markets are not much better, considering that they still have to get trucked to the farmers – and some of the farmers that sell year round do deal with distribution companies.  After my upteenth dried out orange/lime/lemon, I have, for the most part, stayed away from citrus since I’ve been here.
Then I got depressed and homesick around February.  It was another cold day.  I needed a pick me up. 

I needed lemons.

I did a search online and did a little research.  A few of my requirements were direct delivery, no distribution centers, and a locally/family owned farm.

I came across Pearson Ranch California Oranges.  Ok, ok, I know that California is not local to Maryland -BUT- it is family owned and not a huge corporate farm conglomerate.  They are a conventional citrus farm, they specialize in direct delivery to their customers, and they have a lot of East Coast customers.  They have a monthly lemon and orange club that you can join, they have combo citrus packs, and they also have a plethora of different citrus to choose from; from Pomelos to Meyer Lemons to Keffir Limes and Blood Oranges.  If there is a citrus you want, they more than likely have it.  However, they do go by seasons so do keep that in mind.

Farmer Tony is the owner and he is very acessible through email and Facebook.  All of their employees are quick to respond and are very helpful – and – the most important thing, their citrus are delicious!