Friday, December 17, 2010

Yuzu Marmalade

Uwajimaya, $14.99/6

Yuzu is a delicious and distinctive Japanese citrus fruit that I will consume in almost any available form. Early last winter I heard rumors that fresh yuzu had been seen in the produce department at the Uwajimaya Grocery. I rushed right down but was too late. The produce guy explained that only a few growers in California sell yuzu commercially; most of their small output goes to local restaurants, with a few extras occasionally making their way north to Seattle. His advice: "Try again next year." I marked my calendar.

Come early fall I started calling Uwajimaya every week. One week it was too early for yuzu; the next week they'd just sold out and weren't sure if more were coming. Finally, the guy on the phone said he was expecting a shipment the next day, probably the last of the season. When I called around lunchtime there was only one pack left.

Knowing how much work I'd put into tracking these things down, the produce guy tried hard to give me an out: "They're expensive, you know, and to be honest, this pack is kind of sure you want 'em?"

I did.

When I stopped by the produce counter and gave my name, the guy handed me a styrofoam deli tray swaddled in plastic wrap. Inside there were six small balls,
rock hard and dark green. I resisted the urge to ask the produce guy if he was joking.

At "12 items or less" the teenaged checker did an indignant double take at my purchase; "What kind of limes are these?"

She rolled her eyes as I tried to make my case for why yuzu are so special; she'd clearly seen her share of crazies.

I was still rambling when she barked out my total: "Fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents for six...yuzu. You need a bag for those?"

As I blushed and tucked the package into the pocket of my windbreaker I heard the guy in line behind me mutter, "Those better be some good limes."

At home with my booty, I began to feel twinges of buyer's remorse. Out of the wrapper, my yuzu were even smaller, harder, and greener. Worst of all, they smelled like nothing. A scratch-n-sniff sticker would have been more enticing. Discouraged, I stuck my yuzu in a corner and forgot about them.

As the weeks went by, the fruit began to come to life. As they softened and turned yellow, I cheered up enough to start looking at recipes. My original plan had been to candy the peels and drink the juice, but I just didn't think the yield would justify the fuss involved in candying. Remembering a homemade yuzu marmalade I'd had in Japan, I started to lean in that direction, but all the recipes I found called for a particular number of yuzu, as if "one yuzu" were a uniform unit of measurement. Fond as I was becoming of my little yuzu, I suspected that they were well below average.

Eventually, my fruit grew fragrant and I found a simple and sensible marmalade recipe based on the volume of raw fruit. The recipe can take up to three days to complete, but with the exception of one tedious chore (deseeding) the work is easy. I just did a step first thing each day, leaving the fruit to simmer while I did all my usual morning stuff, stirring whenever I happened to walk through the kitchen. It terms of its demands on your attention, marmalade is the outdoor cat of cooking projects.

Yuzu Marmalade

ingredients: yuzu, sugar, water

De-stem, halve and de-seed the fruit (seriously, this the most arduous part of the process; get through it and you're golden). Slice thinly or grind in a food processor. Add 1 1/2 c water for every cup of fruit and let the mixture stand 8-24 hours. Simmer in a heavy saucepan until the peel is tender (1-2 hours). Let the cooked mixture stand at least 8-24 hours. Add a scant cup of sugar (I used light brown evaporated cane juice; that hint of molasses mellows the citrusy sharpness just a little, without making it oversweet) for every cup of fruit, and cook just until the fruit jells. Cool and seal in sterilized jars.

Yuzu marmalade is amazing on buttered toast, and divine in full-fat plain yogurt with toasted walnuts. You can also make a restorative drink by stirring a spoonful into hot water, and I'm toying with the idea of making a small sachertorte and substituting yuzu marmalade for the layer of apricot jam.

If you share my out-of-season craving for yuzu, check out the products at Yuzu Passion.


cybele said...

Last year I got a Yuzu tree. I figured a hundred dollar tree would probably pay for itself in one harvest.

Unfortunately it's not doing well, but I do have about a dozen little ones on the tree. The juice isn't so good, but the zest is wonderful. Fragrant and flowery with a bitter citrus note.

I've been buying a Yuzu "Hot Tea" stuff in a jar that I'm convinced in marmalade. I get it in one kilo jars and go through about one a month.

Julia said...

i love the idea of a yuzu tree! if only i didn't have a brown thumb.

if your harvest is big enough, you could consider making yuzu limoncello. i've heard it is amazing, and it would be a good use for that lovely zest.

thanks for letting me know i'm not alone in my obsession!

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