Bergamot Oranges


[Bergamot Oranges]

I bought these two from a basket at the Batignolles market the other day, intrigued as I was by their label and shape (notice the cute nipples).

Alternative citruses have been getting more and more attention these past few years, with yuzus, combavas, kumquats and cedrats coming out of the shadows, infusing dishes with unusual flavors, and perking up restaurant menus (“Um, what is yuzu again?”, the rookie diner asks).

The Bergamot Orange (simply called la bergamote in French, whereas “bergamot” in English is a herb from the mint family) is mostly grown in Italy and is believed to be a natural cross between lime and sour orange. Needless to say, this heritage makes it quite the sour little guy, but its distinctive and complex flavor more than makes up for it.

Its rind is very rich in essential oils, used in perfumes and cosmetics, and its zest and juice are used in pastries and confections: in particular, the square bergamot candy is a famed specialty from the French city of Nancy. And of course, bergamot is the dominant flavor in Earl Grey tea, as I suddenly remembered just after juicing one, trying to make out what the smell on my fingers reminded me of.

I used some of the juice in a pleurotte mushroom salad (recipe on its way), to which it gave a delicious aromatic twist. The rest I squeezed and served to my friend’s daughter Maïa, with whom I share an uncanny taste for pure lemon juice to make the tongue recoil and who, being quite the little taste adventurer, asked for seconds of this novel and exciting version.

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  • hello clotilde

    yes, those are adorable nipples. why do i feel like blushing now?

    i love tea smoked duck and duck with orange sauce; i can only imagine what an interesting pairing this could be with a canard or two.

  • i am quite curious about this mint that has been gallivanting around under the pseudonym “bergamot.” i have always been familiar with the distinctive bergamot oil that livens up everything from tea to eau de cologne, yet, i have never become acquainted with the herbaceous chap of the same moniker. i’m hoping you can offer me a bit of an introduction.

  • Alisa

    Maïa is so happy that you mentioned her, and your mutual love of all things sour, in C&Z!
    The photo is great, and you know how I love all the information. Maïa is looking forward to another tasting session with you.

  • Penny

    A culinary mystery: Years ago a friend brought me a small jar of Earl Grey Tea Jelly which she had bought in a small shop near the Eiffel Tower. It was dark brown and clear. Scent of Bergamot Heaven! I have been trying to recreate the jelly ever since. Using the tea doesn’t work. Now perhaps I have learned the secret ingredient! Perhaps a clue is the bergamote fruit; however, the jelly was not lime nor sour orange in flavor. Any suggestions?

  • kim

    don’t forget the ugli fruit! I bought one the other day simply based on the name, and it’s pretty much a large orange with a grapefruitish aftertaste, but still. it’s called an ugli fruit… how cute is that?!

  • m

    Call me ignorant… I love Earl Gray tea and had no idea that the bergamot flavouring came from an orange!

  • Maïa Guinard

    Alors, si je comprend bien, j’ai une petite homonyme…
    La grande Maïa
    PS: Alors, ce déjeuner sur la butte aux cailles?

  • You’re going to get some very interesting G00gle hits from this entry…

  • To monkey: the herb version is also known as “beebalm” in English, and “monarde” in French. It’s one of my favorite edible flowers :-)

    The leave looks like mint and can be used as such, but when you rub it, you get a distinct bergamot scent. It was used to replace tea during the Boston tea party!

    If you’re into edible flowers, here’s a Beebalm flavoured ceviche I made using both the petals and the leaves: (in French)…

  • Lisa

    Have you ever preserved lemons? I wonder what those wonderful oranges would taste like preserved. Intense and amazing, I’m guessing.

  • nipples?! i thought this was a *cooking* blog! ;-) you are definitely going to get some interesting hits from this one! I had the word “sex” on my site once and i ended up listed on a porn site about sex & pantyhose. don’t ask…

    pierre herme uses yuzu lemons quite a bit in his patisseries, at least he did last fall when i was working there, including the little lemon tarts, chocolate yuzu tarts, etc…. the juice comes in huge bottles (similar to jeroboam or rehoboam size) from Japan and to taste it is like biting into the most tart, most sour, puckeriest lemon imaginable that will make your whole body recoil, much less your tongue.

    he also uses bergamote (the herb extract) in certain chocolates. i had never heard of it nor tasted it before then and it has such a unique, strong pungent odor, almost like paint, but is amazing in chocolate. my 2 cents…

  • anon

    i always assumed when they say bergamot is a type of citrus that it was some distant weird-tasting cousin like when they say eggplant and tomatoes are in the same family and you say huh? okay. whatever. because i’ve always thought earl grey tea is so yucky. i like tea, i like citrus. maybe i just don’t like them together.

  • They remind me of clementines. Have you had those? They are very sweet and light.

    (besides the nipple appearance) :)

  • Kind of the opposite, have you ever had Meyer Lemons? I think they were developed in California, and are a very sweet and light version of regular lemons.

  • Birgit

    To Penny: homemade (english) marmalade gets darker and more aromatic with time, as I happened to find out by finding a forgotten jar 10 years later … it was incredibly delicious! So I propose to make jelly from bergamotte oranges and try to open only one jar per year …

    BTW, reading about little lemon tarts — I’m looking for a recipe for these with the meringue topping for quite a time now and I could’nt find one. I wonder, maybe I don’t know the correct name? The english lemon meringue pie recipe I’ve tried comes near, but it’s still not the right stuff. Does somebody know where I could find a recipe for the french version?

  • Clothilde, I hope you saved the peels to candy or dry them. Hmm, I would like to add some to my tea.

  • I would love to find these, but I don’t think they’re available in the States. You piqued my curiosity, and I did a search and found this on the website of Babbo, a wonderful Italian restaurant in NY:

    The bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia or Citrus aurantium bergamia) is a small citrus fruit that only grows naturally along the coastline of Reggio-Calabria, from Villa San Giovani to Gioiosa Jonica. Legend tells that Christopher Columbus discovered the Bergamot orange in the Canary Islands, and then introduced it to the Spanish city of Berga (hence the name) from whence it arrived in Italy. Yet to this day, the fruit can only be found in Calabria, though the Bergamot plant blooms elsewhere along the Mediterranean, yielding fragrant orange blossoms. Supporting the claim of Spanish influence, the bergamot orange is most likely a genetic cross between the Seville or sour orange, and the sweet or pear lemon. The fruit itself is small and pear-shaped with a lemon-like peel. When eaten plucked fresh from the tree, the flavor of a bergamot is unique among citrus, and sightly less sour than a lemon. Even if you”ve never seen or heard of a bergamot orange, you may recognize its flavor from Earl Grey tea, in which it is an important component. In Italy, the peels are pressed to yield a high-quality essential oil, which can be used for a variety of purposes from perfume to aromatherapy to adding a hint of bergamot flavor to Calabrian dolci.”

    Charles, I posted about Meyer lemons this week, since I was lucky enough to come into a cache of them.

  • Fabienne

    I cannot wait for the pleurotte mushroom salad : is it still on its way ???

  • Fabienne – Oh, it got slightly side-tracked, it hadn’t quite realized it was expected so eagerly! But it will hurry up and get there soon. :)

  • Clotilde, thanks for high lighting bergamot. I’ve heard from Corsicans that they grow in Corsica, too

  • Fabienne

    Thank you for thinking about the mushroom recipe!! This sunday, I went on Raspail and found as well pleurotes as bergamotes ; I bought one kilo of the latter with bunches of ideas to use them. And I came accross an idea I had copied somewhere : grilling pleurotes in the oven and eating them the “greek way”: with a dash of salt and pepper, a splash of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice (it was bergamote in my case!) ; does it look like your recipe?

  • riona

    I bought some tangelos from the store last night and they look very similar to these bergamots (especially the shape). Are they the same thing?

    I also got an ugli fruit. I love them!

  • marcia smith

    I live in Japan and a shop here imports all sorts of interesting things. One of them is Earl Grey Tea Jelly from France under the label L’Epicurien.

    It’s delicious and contains tea, cane sugar, fruit pectin and lemon juice. It says it is prepared with 1.2 g of tea per 100 g. Total sugar content 60 g per l00 g. This might help

  • Mike S

    You can find bergamot peel preserved in heavy syrup in middle eastern markets. It’s delicious!

    Tangelos and bergamots are completely different.

  • BTW, L’Epicurien makes Earl Grey Tea jelly, available seasonally through chelsea market baskets.

  • Darina

    very interesting. just got both bergamots and citrons in our organic market. Have made some candy peel from the citrons to try the italian pastries ‘sfogliatelle’ will make ice cream with the bergamot and maybe preserve some of the peel for cakes

  • Tamar

    My mother as part of the home health care services provided receives a weekly visit from a nurse. This nurse is originally from Haiti. Recently this nurse’s son returned from a trip home bringing a gift of Haitian grown ginger, which is darker in color and stronger, and also varying slightly in flavor than that available commonly in NYC markets. He also brought his mother several bergamots back. She generously gave one to me. She tells me that this fruit is common and easily available in her country. She had been trying to get them here for ages. Surprisingly in New York City bergamot is so rare a commodity that we couldn’t find any here to buy nor was it available online.
    This Haitian bergamot is green not orange, and it is lumpy like a small lemon sized ugly fruit. I have looked all over the Net to find ways to use this rarely seen citrus. Earl Grey references and marmalade is all I can find.

  • Lena Braun

    I use my bergamot citrus for a confit. I just grate the skin and mix it up with sugar in a glass recipient. I keep it in the frige and then usuallyI usually incorporate in my moelleux au chocolat, chocolate ice cream or cookies.

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