This week, the smell of citrus was in the air. A couple winter cold snaps in December and January have made for vibrantly colored, sugar-packed fruit.
“Citrus usually likes cold this time of year. But just a little bit,” said Marguerita Smith from Mud Creek Ranch. Her parents bought property in Santa Paula in 1985, with the mission to grow everything they eat.
They were also prone to experimentation. Take a walk down the long market stand, and chances are you’ll discover a variety of lime or mandarin you never knew existed. Mud Creek Ranch recently began partnering with University of California Riverside to further generate new crops.
“When they have new products they want to test in certain regions around California for growing conditions, we get five trees and tell them how they did,” said Smith.
Here are some of Smith’s favorite recipes:
2 cups seeded tangerines, quartered, and sliced thinly
2 cups organic sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
Combine the tangerine slices and sugar in a bowl, mix well until all of tangerine sliced are coated with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain the tangerine mixture through a fine mesh strainer and scrape out any leftover sugar into a clean glass jar. Add vinegar and whisk to combine. Cover and return to refrigerator and let sit for another 24 hours. Some of the sugar might settle at the bottom, but just give the mixture a good shake and it will eventually dissolve. Your shrub is ready to be consumed! Keep in mind the longer you let it sit in the fridge the shrub will become more mellow and smoother in flavor. Add to sparkling water for a refreshing soda or to a cocktail.
Blood Orange Gastrique
2 medium blood oranges, zested and juiced
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt
Combine the orange juice, sugar and vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med low and allow mixture to simmer for about 15 minutes, turn off heat and let cool slightly. Add zest, butter and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until butter is well incorporated. *It’s important to let sauce cool slightly before adding butter so it creates a smooth thick sauce. I use it instead of ketchup for meatloaf, but it’s delicious with any poultry or pork (especially when the meat is roasted!)