Who ever in the winter months stays in a Mediterranean country – oh my goodness, what a delight that would be now! – you will probably run into the lumpy body somewhere: the cedar or citron. Here in the cold north, we only know this fruit in candied form. You know, those translucent pale green pieces that you always pick out of the currant bread before spreading a thick layer of butter on it. At least if you share my taste a little, because I hate candied currant bread. In everything actually. Sukade should be banned. (Do not be embarrassed to join the sukade hat club, confectioner Cees Holtkamp is also a member of it.)
Fresh citron, on the other hand, is something fantastic. You’d start a fan club for it. I bought one from an Italian store in early March last year, not knowing what I was buying. ‘Cedrato’ yes, but what was that exactly? When I got home I started googling and made an unforgettable risotto with it, among other things. It was just too late to report about it in the newspaper, because this type of citrus fruit is mainly in the months of January and February with at most a tail in March. But now I bought another oversized original lemon last week, this time just from the greengrocer – they are increasingly available – and I would like to let you share in the pleasure.
It is not for nothing that I write primeval lemon, for the cedrate (citrus medica) is considered the ancestor of our modern lemon. The fruit originates from the area on the eastern side of the Himalayas. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, he is first mentioned in religious writings dating to around 800 BC.
At the time, cedrates played a role in religious ceremonies and were attributed medicinal properties. They could, among other things, neutralize the symptoms of poisoning. And keeping moths out of your clothes, also quite handy. Via Persia, the cedrate reached the Middle East and then the Mediterranean. The Greeks gave it its current name: kedros, because the fruit, with its large, elongated size and bumpy skin, is said to resemble the cones of the cedar tree.
Incidentally, not all cedrates are cone-shaped. You also have specimens that are more plump like a grapefruit. The color can also vary, from lemon yellow to lime green. But inside they are all the same: little pulp and juice and a thick, fluffy, white skin. The special thing is that the inner peel – the official name is albedo, or pith, but then probably no one will understand what I mean – is very tasty, while with most other citrus fruits this is the part you do not want to eat, because it is so bitter.
The white inner skin of citron is definitely a bit bitter, but also sweet and very aromatic. In Italy it is used chopped in risottos and that is exactly what we are going to do today. And because you only need half a cedrate for such a risotto, we’re going to preserve the other half, tadaaaa.
Because, as I discovered last week, candied candied citron is a thousand times tastier than industrial citron. Or better said: home candied candied peel is tasty. I am now considering setting up a home candied scallop fan club. And then I ask Cees Holtkamp if he wants to become an honorary member.