Shut Up About Yuzu: A Introduction to Alternative Citrus Fruits

With its intoxicating aroma and invigorating tang, yuzu is a fruit that’s easy to fall in love with. Perhaps a little too easy. These days, so many chefs and brewers are using yuzu that they risk making it something it should never be: boring. Familiarity breeds contempt, and we’re all getting awfully familiar with yuzu.

I understand that there’s something irresistible about yuzu, but if everybody uses it then it loses some of its appeal. I fear we may have reached ‘peak yuzu.’ These days it is so common that it may begin to have the opposite effect of that intended: instead of making a dish or a beer exotic and intriguing, it could make it mundane and samey.

Besides, it’s irritating to see so much buzz about yuzu when there are so many other equally interesting citrus fruits out there to experiment with. It’s time to try something new. The next time you’re tempted to cook or brew with yuzu, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Why am I using yuzu? Is there a more delicious alternative? Is there a more interesting alternative? Is there a cheaper alternative? Chances are, there is – there’s a whole world of citrus to explore. I would suggest any of the following as a start:

Bergamot

Citrus_bergamia_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-184

Bergamot is most famous for being a key component of Earl Grey tea, but its applications certainly don’t stop there. Its peel is alluringly aromatic, with an exuberant floral character reminiscent of roses and citronella. The fruit itself is dense and full of a delightful juice that has a lime-like sourness, grapefruity bitterness, and a touch of the same floral aroma found in the peel.

Uses: The peel, trimmed of its bitter pith, can be infused into light broths or used to garnish cocktails. The juice works well in place of lime, especially in fresh, spicy soups, salads, and stir-fries. The entire fruit can also be turned into a marmalade.

Meyer Lemon

"Meyer Lemon" by Debra Roby. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Meyer Lemon” by Debra Roby. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Meyer lemons are small-ish lemons with more sweetness than typical varieties and a slightly more interesting aroma, with herbal and floral notes that remind me of thyme and honeysuckle. They are sweet enough and tender enough that you can even eat the pith. Whenever I can get them, I like to slice them thinly and toss them through a salad with fennel, feta, and olive oil.

Uses: I quite like the idea of Meyer lemon kosho, a clever twist on a traditional yuzu product. They also make an excellent limoncello. I would come up with more ideas, but the LA Times already has Meyer lemons pretty well covered.

Dekopon

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 20.58.38

Dekopon are large, gorgeously sweet hybrid tangerines. They taste like Orange Crush with a pinch of preserved lime. In my mind, there’s no orange that tastes quite so orange-y. They’re great to eat on their own, but I’d love to see them used in cooking and brewing more – imagine a dekopon IPA. Now that would be a #juicybanger.

Uses: Their natural sweetness makes dekopon a clear choice for desserts. They would be beautiful as a flavoring for a custard tart, trifle, or sorbet. But they could also work wonders in savory dishes where a sweet, tangy glaze is appropriate – for example, on duck, pork, carrots, or even eel.

Buddha’s Hand

Buddhas_hand_1

I was introduced to Buddha’s hand by Jocky Petrie, who had been developing recipes with the fruit at The Ledbury. The most amazing thing about Buddha’s hand is its appearance – more like the tentacles of Cthulhu than the fingers of Buddha, I think, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, it is one of the most striking edible plants I’ve seen, and the flavor ain’t bad, either. It is quite similar to bergamot, but less intense and more lemony.

Uses: Jocky slices the fruit very thinly and pickles it, which is then draped over mackerel – a brilliant application. The Kitchn has some other clever ideas. But of course, since so much of its impact is visual, you may want to keep it as a centrepiece for the table at a dinner party – its appearance and aroma will likely have as much of an effect on diners as its flavor would.

Procimequat

Procimequat_IMG_0807

This is the one fruit on this list that I haven’t tried, but it just sounds awesome. One home gardener describes the flavor of this backcrossed kumquat as a mix of ‘celery, lemon, and orange,’ which to me sounds like it would be excellent chopped up into a salsa for fish, or as a garnish for a Martini. The catch: as far as I can tell, it isn’t available commercially. However, it appears to be relatively easy to grow. Let me know if you can track some down.

Uses: The fruit of the procimequat is only the size of a marble, so it would make a cute garnish for seafood dishes or desserts. The herbal citrus flavor would be right at home in a wheat beer, as well.

Honorable mentions: Kaffir lime, oroblanco, shatkora, sweet lime, and bitter orange.

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7 thoughts on “Shut Up About Yuzu: A Introduction to Alternative Citrus Fruits

  1. Pingback: Gimmick or Twist?

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