Saturday, 29 April 2017
The bergamot is a fruit which looks like an orange. However it is sourer than a lemon and more bitter than a grapefruit. In other words, you wouldn't want to pick and eat it.
Bergamot essence is the flavouring used in Earl Grey tea. About one half of women's perfumes contain bergamot essential oil says Wikipedia.
What does an ordinary traditional greek person do with their bergamots? Italians make marmalade. Greeks make a syrupy preserve from the peel which is served as a sweet after a meal or as a welcome dish for a guest. It goes well with thick greek yoghurt.
We were given a bag by a friend who has some trees in his orchard on the mainland. They must be used somehow, just like the bags of lotus fruit we are given and the bags of quinces.
First each bergamot has to be grated on a fine grater. The zest can be frozen and used in cakes and biscuits. It can also be used to make a bergamot liqueur, similar to the lemon liqueur, limoncello, I presume. I shall investigate because I now have a small bag and an ice cube tray of bergamot zest.
Once the fruit has been grated the peel is removed by slicing the rind and with a sharp knife pulling it off piece by piece. Each piece of peel now has to have the white pith removed from the inside.
What a palaver. And you're not done yet.
Each piece of peel is rolled tightly and pinned with a toothpick, or as my sister-in-law used to do, threaded on to a string and pulled tightly to keep its rolled-up shape.
They are all put in a pot of water and boiled for three minutes.
with fresh water boil them again for three minutes and leave to soak.
Repeat this for three days to remove bitterness.
A syrup is made of water and sugar and then the rolls of peel are added having first removed the toothpicks. These are all boiled till the syrup has thickened and then put into sterilized jars.
After all this you have a very traditional Greek 'spoon sweet'.
I'm eating one right now so I can describe the taste. It is slightly chewy, very sweet and has the most wonderfully fragrant orangey taste. I don't suppose any of you will ever make this sweet but if you ever come across it on your travels then give it a try.
The syrup that is left in the jar at the end is the perfect flavouring for all sorts of cakes and puddings and ideal for topping yoghurt, ice-cream, a cheesecake or a pavlova (New Zealand or the Australian version).
In our garden we have a 'neratzi' tree whose fruit is similar to that of the bergamot. Looking up this greek word I find it is called a Seville orange or a bitter orange. We make a similar spoon-sweet with the fruit and it makes a pleasant marmalade, especially when mixed with oranges or a few mandarins.