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.
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!
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!
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…!