|Yuzu on twig|
It’s yuzu season. Yuzu is a citrus that originated in Asia, China, specifically, it is said. It is often incorporated into Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes, but is now used around the world, though still largely unknown in the West. It is believed to be a cross between two different citrus species, but there is no definitive proof to date. Whether it’s a pure species or a naturally hybridized combo of sorts, the aroma is unlike any other citrus you’ll come across. Late fall and winter is the best time for yuzu. In fact, it’s quite common to see yuzu infused yuburo (hot baths) at homes and hot springs during the winter in Japan. Well, I could go on, but with Wiki just a click away, I’ve provided a convenient link instead.
About 7 years ago, I purchased one yuzu tree and planted it in the front yard. With the exception of two consecutive years, 2011 and 2012, when it mysteriously just stopped fruiting, it has done quite well. This year is a bumper crop. Yesterday I picked about 60 of them, which is about ½ of what was on the small tree, and used most of it to make a yuzu marmalade. It consists of yuzu fruit, a bit of the zest, organic sugar, yuzu juice, cinnamon and a few secret ingredients. I made 8 jars last night, and will likely give only half away, this time. Last time I gave away so many that my own stock ran out within a couple of months and I was left with nothing until this new batch. Never again!!
A couple of weeks ago, I used about 8 yuzu to make yuzu-cha, which is also mentioned on the Wiki link. I colelcted the zest from about 35 of the fruit I picked yesterday to make “yuzucello,” a variation of the Italian alcoholic beverage called “limoncello.” It should be ready just in time for Christmas – which I will be having at my house this year. Yes, I say that with not a little trepidation. But that’s when the sweet yuzu infused shochu (Japanese vodka) that I made comes in handy.
The more daring creation is what I like to boldly call Yuzu Liontail. It is both medicine and a sippable cordial-like drink of leisure. I put 4 whole, unpeeled yuzu, which I had punctured with a chopstick, into a tall, wide-mouth container. Next, I added the following:
750ml Takara Jun Shochu (35% alc./vol.)
125g Rock sugar
10 sprigs Lion's-Tail (Leonurus leonotus), flowering tops, fresh
10 sprigs Mint, leaves, soft stem, fresh, whole
5 sprigs Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) flowering tops, dried
3 sprigs Mexican tarragon, fresh leaves, whole
21 leaves Gotu kola (Centella hydrocotyl), fresh, whole leaves
12 leaves Kefir lime leaves, fresh, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, crushed, not diced.
2 tsp Turmeric, powdered
I let this infuse on a windowsill in the sun for about 1.75 weeks. I strained that out last night so I could use the tall, slender container for the yuzucello. I also drank a full shot of the Lion’s-tail elixir and I must say, the flavor is good and profoundly complex. It starts out with an herbal and citrus sweetness, giving way to spicy citrus, before ending with a pleasantly bitter herbal tail. The progression of flavors is so pronounced and expressive that it literally teases the emotions. Lion’s-tail itself originates in the southern parts of Africa. There, it has traditionally been used as an anti-asthmatic and to quell coughs, as well as to get a decent pot-like buzz – though that is debatable. In a drink like this, the controversy persists, since you never know if it’s just the shochu or the lions’-tail or a combo of all of the ingredients that is making you feel so good!
. . . Ok, so, what’s left to do with the remaining 60 or so yuzu still on the tree? Give some to coworkers and a couple of friends, I suppose. Or make more of the above to give away. Oh, but wait a minute! EEEERRRRTTT!!! I still haven’t dried any of the zest so I could powder it and use straight to aromatize seafood or desserts, or blend into a 5-spice seasoning, like the popular, and delectable, Shichimi powder in Japan. The zest of 60 yuzu might get me 3 small bottles of powder! B-but wait! I forgot about the seeds, which some scientific tests have shown strengthen collagen in the skin, taking years off of not-so-gracefully-aging faces the world ‘round. I could get about 500 grams of powder from the seeds of 60 yuzu to add to scrubs and skin creams!!
Oh well, sorry friends and colleagues. Maybe next year . . .