A clever way to enjoy winter citrus year-round (I know, citrus is pretty much always available, but in the winter it is really something to behold) is to preserve them in salt. Though to be true, a salt-preserved orange tends to stand alone as something entirely in its own right, and even sour, out of season ones will do just fine here. On the one hand, preserving can be a method of making the most out of sub-par fruit, on the other, it can extend the life of an abundance of beautiful, sweet, juicy citrus, not letting it go to waste. In my case, both sort of turned out to be true. I am lucky enough to have a few citrus trees in my yard, one of which, the Mandarin tree, produces an INSANE abundance of oranges each winter. And every last one of them inedibly sour. Cue salt, aromatics and a long life in the fridge. Once preserved, the rinds can be diced added to pastas, couscous, rice pilafs, roasted vegetables, stews, and salads. The pulp can be added to stews as well, or mashed into dips and sauces. It adds little bursts of briny, bright flavor which does a lot to enhance the flavor of many dishes.
- 6-8 whole Mandarin oranges (or any other citrus will do, except for lime)
- 1 lemon
- 4-5 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- A pinch or two of fennel pollen (optional, you could also use a pinch of fennel seed)
Cut and X through the stem of the orange, almost to the end, but not all the way through. You want the fruit cut into quarters but remaining in tact at one end. Open slightly and sprinkle generously with the salt. Squeeze the orange into a clean jar.
Repeat until the jar is full, sprinkling with more salt and pressing the oranges down with your fingers as you go to release their juice. You want the oranges to be tightly packed in the jar and submerged in liquid. If you need more liquid, squeeze in some lemon juice.
Add the bay leaf and fennel pollen and close the lid. Store in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks, shaking the jar once in a while and checking to make sure the fruit is still submerged in liquid. Store in the fridge and enjoy for up to 6 months!