Unlike relatively sweet Washington or Valencia oranges typical of American supermarkets, the rough-skinned Seville oranges are an older bitter/sour variety with limited availability in the US. Centuries ago, when members of the English and French aristocracies grew trees in their glass-enclosed orangeries, these were the fruits they grew. In Florida today, grocery stores and fruit stands may sell them as sour oranges or naranjas agrias — a core component of Cuban mojo, a ubiquitous (and delicious) marinade. In Spain, most of the bitter orange crop is exported to the UK where it is turned to classic orange marmalade. The dried peels of Caribbean harvests remain the building blocks of numerous famous orange liqueurs.
|Lumpy-ass bitter oranges, freshly washed|
By early summer, the wine will have taken on the ethereal taste of vanilla and bitter orange. Balanced with the sweetness of cane sugar, it will be just the thing for our pre-meal drinks outdoors. And, of course, if you want to play with it as an alternate to sweet vermouth or Lillet, you’d be on solid ground.
Vin d’OrangeEquipment note: You’ll need one or two large glass jars or stainless steel containers for the long infusion. Make sure they are airtight. I used 5-liter glass jugs with swing tops and gasket closures. When the time comes to bottle, you’ll also need clean glass wine bottles. My suggestion: wash and save the ones you emptied into the jugs.
8-10 Seville oranges (about 1 kilo or 2-2.5lbs) quartered lengthwise and sliced in smallish chunks — peel, pith, seeds, and all
2 entire lemons, sliced similarly
6 (750ml each for a total of 4.5 liters) bottles of cheap but decent rosé wine (see below)
1 liter vodka 80 proof/40% abv
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and cut into thirds
700g-1 kilo sugar (1.5-2.2 lbs)
If you have a container large enough to hold 2 gallons, put everything in it. If, like me, you use two smaller jugs, split the ingredients evenly between them.
Put all the ingredients into one (or two) jars. Seal, shake. The sugar won't all dissolve at first. Patience; it will over time. Put the jars in a dark spot such as a cabinet, closet, or basement. Give it a shake or two every day for two weeks. Just to show it who's boss. Then every week or so do the same. So it doesn't forget.
I'll get to you when I return from Kentucky.
After a rest of 30-60 days (I find better extraction at 60 days, but even an hour shows marked improvement on taste and some impatient souls simply can't wait two months), strain the mixture into a large clean bucket, carboy, fermentation tub or what have you. Cover it and let it settle a day, then line a funnel with several layers of cheesecloth and rack the heady wine into the clean bottles you saved, leaving any sediment behind in the bucket.
Done. Label it, date it, store it in a cool, dark place. One bottle should go into that cool, dark place known as the fridge.
Goes well with:
- The wine I used here was a 2010 Côtes du Rhône, Cuvée Abel Clément, about $5/750ml at the San Diego Wine Company. Use a wine you like and that doesn't break the bank.
- We really do put citrus though the paces here. Try a blood orange marmalade sour with a dose of Brazilian cane spirits.
- My take on a solid preserves recipe book, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. It's especially useful for inspiration of what to do with the more unusual fruits cropping up in farmers' markets over the last few years.
- A few notes on The River Cottage Preserves Book, including a recipe for an unusual homemade noyau (though not, it should be noted, my recipe for noyau).
- We like jam a lot around here. Try the hot pepper version and straight up bacon jam with apple cider.