A Special Marmalade From a Special Fruit – The Bergamot

bergamot, France, Morocco
bergamot, France, Morocco
Bergamots

The temperatures have turned wintery here in northern France. I’m between Louviers and Paris, between my wonderful house and my teeny apartment and while I feel the cold, both are equally cozy.  But what this cold weather means, aside from a good and true winter, is  that it’s finally bergamot season!!

You’re not cheering the way I thought you would.  Because you’re not sure what there is to cheer about?

Well, the bergamot is a VERY special little citrus that is so chubby and cute it’s hard to resist.  Take a look. Did you ever see such a cute little citrus?  But cuteness is not its charm.  What compels in the bergamot is the exotic perfume exuded by the oils in its skin.  You know the  perfume of bergamot if you’ve ever had a cup of Earl Grey tea, which is flavored with bergamot oil.  Or perhaps you’ve worn Cologne? I’s basic aroma is bergamot, too.

It’s not just the oil in the bergamot that charms, but also the  juice which is delicously puckery, it’s little outie, or navel, and it’s green-tinged flesh. It has a lot of seeds, but these are hardly noticeable in light of the rest of its excessive attributes.

The bergamot has been known in the Mediterranean since the 18th century, and in Turkey before that where, it is thought, the name originated.  Bergamot is the combination of bey, which means Sir or Prince, and armoud, or pear.  So it was originally considered a princely pear.  Today, it is considered a citrus, Citrus bergamia Risso or Citrus aurantium ssp. bergamia.  While indeed princely, I can’t imagine it being considered anything else, since it looks, feels, and tastes like a citrus.

I find bergamots only at organic grocers, either the biocoop (I have two; a big one in Louviers, a smaller one in Paris on Boulevard Raspail), or Les Nouveaux Robinson . They come primarily from Marocco or Calabria, and I always snap them up.  What for? Their juice is, as I’ve mentioned, puckery. But it also has the most pleasant bitterness that improves a vinaigrette, is all that is need on steamed fish, and makes avocado sit up and give its all.    I use the zest in cakes, too.

French butter, marmalade, baguette
Breakfast

But my favorite thing to do with bergamots is to make marmalade.  Because when you get a spoonful on your morning bread, atop that salted butter, well, your mouth goes on a joy ride.  And you won’t want to stop there.

If you can’t find bergamots, follow my recipe for Orange and Lemon Marmalade in French Farmhouse Cookbook!

bergamots, juice, juice squeezer
Squeeze, squeeze, and squeeze some more

So yesterday I took my stash of bergamots, which had been perfuming up my little apartment in Paris for a day, squeezed all of their juice, discarded the many seeds, and sliced the skin as thin as I possibly could.  To help me along, I put on Lou Reed for a little nostalgic energy.  “Just a Perfect Day” is the ideal bergamot marmalade-making song!

marmalade, sugar, skins
Bergamot marmalade

Bergamots, also called sour oranges, make the perfect marmalade, combined with vanilla sugar which softens the flavor, some water, and the rinds which cook to a toothsome brilliance.  I hope you’ll try it – you can find them at  Melissa’s Produce, who offers California grown bergamots – or sour oranges – by mail order to most states.

And I now have gorgeous Bergamot Marmalade to share…!

Print Recipe
BERGAMOT MARMALADE – MARMALADE DE BERGAMOT
Have a couple of lemons on hand, in case you need a bit more juice to get to the proper quantity. And the cooking time is approximate, simply because your stovetop will dictate how long this takes to cook. What you are looking for is tender skins and a caramelized color. You don’t want to cook the marmalade too long or it will turn to a lump when cool.
BERGAMOT MARMALADE – MARMALADE DE BERGAMOT
Servings
Ingredients
  • 7 about 1-1/2 pounds; 750g bergamots washed, any green blossom ends removed, cut in half
  • 3 cups (600g) vanilla sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups (210ml) bergamot juice
  • 5-1/4 cups (1.325 liters) filtered water
Servings
Ingredients
  • 7 about 1-1/2 pounds; 750g bergamots washed, any green blossom ends removed, cut in half
  • 3 cups (600g) vanilla sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups (210ml) bergamot juice
  • 5-1/4 cups (1.325 liters) filtered water
BERGAMOT MARMALADE – MARMALADE DE BERGAMOT
Instructions
  1. Squeeze the juice from the bergamots, trying to get every drop out of them. Strain it if necessary, simply to discard the seeds.
  2. Place the juice, the sugar, the water in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan.
  3. Cut the skins of the bergamot, with the pith clinging to it, into small dice.
  4. Prepare five 1 cup (250ml) canning jars by covering them with water in a large stockpot, bringing the water to a boil, and keep it hot.
  5. Place the bergamot skins with the liquids and sugar, stir, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the mixture is boiling slowly, about medium, and cook until the mixture has thickened, the skins have turned tender though not soft, and the skins have turned a light copper color, which will take about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Test the marmalade by putting a teaspoon full on on a small plate and putting it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If the marmalade is the thickness you like, remove it from the heat.
  6. Immediately put the marmalade in the jars, and seal them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
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