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Citron for Christmas Breads and Fruitcakes


Is citron grown and sold in the u.s? I’ve candied orange,lemon, grapefruit,and tangerine for panetone and lebkuchen,because store bought is so full of garbage. I’d also like to do citron but have not found any.

--Valerie Tassa

Valerie, I share your feeling about candied fruit here in the U.S. being really awful—sort of like sugary wax.  And while maybe with a lot of money and shipping from a gourmet company you CAN find good quality candied orange or lemon peel, it is especially difficult to locate citron, which is so little appreciated in the U.S.

For those not familiar...citron is of course the citrus fruit.  Its candied peel goes into various fruit cakes for the holiday.  You can see it pictured above with some candied orange peel.  This photo is from last winter when I bought these in the Mercato Orientale in Genoa, where the fruit goes by the name of cedro.  You can see just by looking at it this this has nothing to do with the hideous chunks of food colored stuff at the supermarket.  Nancy, wouldn’t you love to paint this?

Here are some more photos of candied fruits—many varieties—in the beloved Pietro Romanengo shop in Genoa.  They were in a huge basket on the counter, a feature of the Christmas Season.


For more on citron, here’s a nice blog post by Susie Wyshak’s blog called artisanfooddiscoveries.  She does a great job on the citron and even includes a youtube video of John Kirkpatrick’s Lindcove Farm, which I believe is the only one in America that grows citron.  nuttyfig.com

Unfortunately, Americans think of fruit cakes as kind of a joke--though in recent years, there has been some efforts to revive them.  Not sure how that’s going when there’s so much chocolate around.  I think that there are just lots of people who don’t like candied fruit peel.  That’s cool.  But I wonder if those people have just never tasted any of decent quality.  When it’s good, candied fruit peel is delicate and tastes intensely of the fruit . . . not wax.  It is primo “not to be forgotten” territory, a technique invented so as not to waste even a fruit rind--a precious source of flavor, and really quite a brilliant use of sugar. 

Candied fruit has deep roots in ancient Jewish, Arab, and Christian tradition. Persians and Arabs were known for their advanced technique with sugar and candying not just fruit but flowers.  This technique was introduced to Europe around the Middle Ages.  Jews use citron --etrog-- for their fall holiday Sukkot.  And then, many of the famous Christmas breads--from Tuscany’s panforte to English fruit cake and German stolen--come from the east-west trade of the Middle Ages. 

Okay, Valerie, now to your question.  I don’t know where you live, but you can find fresh citron in the markets in California this time of year.  Here’s a market that sells citron.  Maybe you can call and ask them to ship some to you.  http://www.berkeleybowl.com

I also put in a phone call to John Kirkpatrick, the citron farmer.  I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

If you can’t get some fresh citron, perhaps these markets will probably ship you something of higher quality in the already-candied product: Both Kalustyans and Corti Brothers are known for their imports of high quality, and both sell citron.
http://www.kalustyans.com and www.cortibros.biz/. Note that Corti doesn’t have citron listed in their online catalog, but they have it on their shelves, so call.

Please let us know how you make out.  And send us pictures!  We’ll post them!

Next week, I’m going to post a story of my own holiday candied-fruit bread called pandolce.

Stay tuned.

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Thanks loads for all the info. Going to berkeley bowl tomorrow.
Laura, are you still looking for a yeasted Pandolce recipe? I have Nick Malgieri’s Pandolce Genovese recipe. He says it’s a synthesis of versions he tasted in Santa Margherita, Ligure, Recco, and Genoa. He uses a sponge rather than a biga or sourdough starter,no eggs,and less butter. I can send it if you like, and let you know how i like it too,as i,ve yet to make it.
Your Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken is such a wonderful story. You wrote it for more than just yourself. As a second generation daughter of blue collar Italian-american heritage it felt like a personal account of a common american story and i so loved feeling represented. Your ravioli recipe is killer,too! ciao v.

    –  (December 13 2008 at 6:30)

I find real citron, whole and cut into pieces, here on Long Island in my local Italian delis. It is not inexpensive but certainly worth it. Makes a real difference in Easter grain pie.


    –  (December 17 2008 at 3:17)

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