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Pomelo Zest — Beyond Lemon and Orange

by Elizabeth Skipper | August 6th, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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grapefruit-395345_640I have used lemons, oranges, and limes for zesting in an assortment of recipes. This has me wondering, can all citrus fruits be zested? In particular I was wondering if I could use pomelo zest? If so, do you have any suggestions for a recipe?

Here in NH, I seldom see pomelos available for sale, certainly not in the local supermarkets. Perhaps next time I’m in an Asian market I’ll try to find one. You’ve aroused my curiosity. I seem to remember trying it once, wondering if it was like an ugli fruit. I also remember not being impressed – the pith is thick, and the edible portion was dry. Most likely it wasn’t a fresh, and therefore not a representative, specimen. I’ve had the same reaction to ugli fruit.

At any rate, seeing as how lemons, lime, oranges, and grapefruits can all be zested, and that marmalade is made from all of these fruits, it seemed reasonable to assume that other kinds of citrus fruits can be used similarly. Pomelos weren’t mentioned in the Time Life Good Cook series Fruit book, so I went to Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book. Lo and behold, she has an entire chapter devoted to grapefruit, pomelo, ugli, and citron. The citron, interestingly, is used exclusively for its rind. If you make fruitcake, you’re no doubt familiar with it. The others are multi-purpose. She writes, “All these fruit can be used in making marmalade with other citrus or sharp fruit … All the skins can be candied.”

She goes on to say that in the course of writing this book, she had bought a lot of these expensive fruits and it seemed a shame to waste any part of them (she was a cook after my own heart.) So she tried candying their peel, and liked the results. Here’s how Jane Grigson prepared candied grapefruit, but you can use these directions with any citrus peel:

“Take the peel of two fine grapefruit, removing it in neat sections shaped like a large curving bay leaf. Boil it in plenty of water until it is tender. Drain and boil it again in fresh water for twenty minutes. Do not be tempted to omit the second boiling – it really is necessary. Bring 300 grams (10 oz/1 ¼ cups) sugar to the boil with 150 ml (1/4 pint/⅔ cup) water, stirring at first so that the sugar is quite dissolved by the time the syrup boils. Put in the peel and simmer until the syrup has more or less disappeared; spread out on trays lined with greaseproof or Bakewell paper* and leave to dry – this can take up to three days – on the rack of a solid fuel cooker or in a warm airing cupboard are both good places. Turn the pieces from time to time. Put into a paper bag with caster sugar** and shake to coat the peel. Store in an airtight jar.

Once the peel has had its two boilings, or when it has cooled after candying, you can cut it with scissors into smaller pieces.” She reports that some found its way into pound cake, but that most of it was eaten out of hand.

As long as you can find a source of organic fruit, or are OK with ingesting some chemicals used as preservatives on non-organic fruits, you can eat or cook with the zest of any citrus fruit. So, other ideas besides marmalade … how about making a tarte aux citrons (French lemon tart) with pomelo instead?

Try adding some grated pomelo zest to muffin or quick bread batter. Make a glaze with both the juice and the zest to pour over a baked pound cake, or a sauce to drizzle on crêpes. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and pomelo juice after sautéing chicken, pork, or veal cutlets, reduce, enrich with some butter, and then garnish with a little grated zest.

Any recipe which calls for lemon or orange zest should be considered for its suitability as a use for other citrus peels; think about things like lemon curd, mousses, puddings, cold soufflés, lemon bars, and the like. Do a little taste test to see how their acidity compares, and add or decrease sweetener where needed. Try burying some in sugar, which over time will take on the flavor, and use that for baking. I think you can have a lot of fun with this.

* Bakewell paper is parchment which has been coated with silicone on both sides. Just use regular parchment paper.

** Regular granulated sugar.

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