Posts Tagged ‘naringenin’

Orange Peel in the Thrifty Kitchen

I’m  an almost-diabetic who uses low-carb food intake to maintain my excellent blood sugar, so citrus juice, which is a pretty concentrated belt of sugar, is mostly out of my diet.  I also love oranges and orange flavored things, and don’t like artificial flavors. So for a while I have been following with interest the analyses showing very high antioxidant activity in citrus peel and wondering how to incorporate it into my diet, and recently I got a chance to test this when I came across a bonanza of 20 large organic navel oranges that could not be sold because they had soft spots. I could have made orange-cello liqueur, but wanted something I could drink with lunch.  So I washed the oranges carefully, cut out the soft spots, cut them into chunks, and puréed  them in batches in my blender with only enough water to keep the purée  moving.  Each batch was blended at the highest speed for over a minute, to make sure it was completely liquefied.  I have a Vitamix, and I don’t really know how well this would work with other blenders, but probably well enough.

Please note that the oranges I was using were seedless. If you try this with seeded oranges, the seeds have to be carefully removed because they are intensely bitter, and this technique will not work at all with lemons because their inner white pith is so bitter.  I haven’t experimented with other citrus. I would say that tasting a little slice of the white pith might be a good test. If it’s very bitter, it might not work to use it this way. I think that blood oranges would work well, and I plan to try as soon as they come into season. Also, organic really matters when you are using the peel.

You end up with a thick smooth purée  that is only very slightly sweet, has a hint of bitterness, and is loaded with orange flavor and all the nutritional value than oranges have to offer. I use two or three tablespoons in a water glass, fill it with sparkling water, and sweeten with stevia sweetener. When you get near the bottom of the glass, be sure to swirl it around and drink up all the particles that settle to the bottom. Overall I’m probably taking in about a tablespoon of pure orange juice per glass, so the carb content is not high enough to worry me. I have also added it to a low-carb coffee cake with good results. Because of the intense flavor that the peel adds, you don’t need much.

Orange trees are strikingly beautiful, and if you live in the citrus zone they are great edible landscaping material.

If you do a web search on citrus peel you will find articles suggesting that there are few diseases it won’t prevent or cure. Let’s not get carried away. The antioxidants that it contains, including  naringinen, hesperadin, and rutin, have some interesting anti-inflammatory activities, and there is no documented evidence that ingesting some amount of citrus peel and pith is harmful. It’s also a superb natural source of vitamin C, which can be a bit short in a ketogenic diet. It makes thrifty use of something ordinarily discarded, and it tastes good, adding strong flavor and a touch of bitterness that makes an adult drink out of a fruit that can otherwise be too sweet to enjoy very much of. You can read about its various possible benefits at the links below, including the interesting demographic information from the REGARDS study that higher levels of citrus consumption correlated with lower levels of ischemic stroke. Make of that what you will.


REGARDS study analysis indicating possible inverse relationship between citrus consumption and ischemic stroke:

A survey of antioxidants and anti inflammatory activities in citrus peel:

An animal study showing inhibitory effects on human prostate cancer tissue grafted into mice:

An animal study showing effects in reducing neuroinflammation:

There are other possibilities for eating citrus peel. I came across the following recipe while searching, and haven’t tried it yet, but it does look lovely, doesn’t it? Personally I would roast the fruit-veggie mixture first to soften them more, then the salmon by itself, since I despise overcooked salmon.


Passing Pleasures: Blood Orange Marmalade, and notes on sharp knives

In my last post I discussed the virtues of freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and encouraged you to eat them up during the few short weeks that we can get them. In this post I’ll talk about how to preserve them so that you can spread your morning whole wheat toast with exquisite marmalade long after the season is over.
First, the disclaimer: nearly all my ideas about marmalade came from John Thorne, a remarkably quirky, idiosyncratic, and interesting food writer. I strongly advise getting his book Mouth Wide Open and reading the chapter “Maximum Marmalade,” because you’ll learn good marmalade-making technique, get all the comments and asides of a working cook in his element, and have a great time. I happened to reread his book at a time when I was thinking about the concentration of beneficial flavanoids such as naringenin, hesperidin, and rutin in citrus peel, and wondering how to make them taste good. Naturally, a chunky and delicious marmalade was the way to go.
First, catch your blood oranges. There are two basic types on the market right now, one the size of a lemon or a little bigger, deep red inside, and filled with tart juice with a definite note of raspberry. The other is the size of a navel orange and only lightly blushed inside, and the juice is sweet. The former type is best for marmalade. I have only found it at the Nob Hill branch of La Montanita Co-op this week, so act fast if you want to get some. If all you can find is the other kind, you can still make a great marmalade, but it won’t be quite the same. Buy about 15 of the small ones or 7-8 of the big ones. The two types are shown below:

Next, get a really sharp knife. For my local readers I advise a trip to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market with all your knives in hand. Look for Pat Romero’s sharpening booth, and he will sharpen them to lethality while you shop. Please let him know that Local Food Albuquerque sent you, and be damn careful when you unwrap them at home, because a knife sharpened by Pat has no margin for error.
Now wash the 4 prettiest small oranges, or the one best if using the larger sort. Cut off the two ends enough to reveal the flesh, cut in half lengthwise, and slice each half crosswise into the finest slices that you can manage. Remove any seeds, but keep everything else. Put your slices in a bowl, and juice the remaining oranges until you have enough juice to cover the slices. Cover the bowl tightly and let the slices macerate in juice overnight at room temperature.
The next day, put the entire contents of the bowl in a saucepan of at least twice the volume of the mixture, bring to a boil briefly, and simmer gently until the peel is as tender as you like, remembering that it will firm up some when cooked with sugar. When the peel is softened to your preference, measure how much orange goop you have and add 3/4 that much sugar. I recommend white sugar only, to avoid distorting the wonderful orange taste. Now bring to a boil briefly again, and cook at a fast simmer until it’s ready to gel. John’s test, which is the best one I’ve come across, is to put a heavy plate in the freezer before you start cooking. After cooking the orange-sugar mixture for 15 minutes, start putting a half teaspoon or so on the cold rim of the plate. Return to the freezer for a minute and then prod the dribble with your finger. When it softly holds its new prodded shape, it’s done. Pour it into clean jars, let cool, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator, or see the Ball Blue Book for directions on how to heat-process so that it can be stored in the pantry until opened. In the morning, toast and butter a piece of very good bread, spread it with butter and marmalade, and eat. Oh my.
Incidentally, cooking any sugar syrup requires a watchful cook hovering over the stove to stir and prevent boil-overs. This is not a forget-it-until-it’s-done recipe. The result is worth it.