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Rose-tinted Glasses

Blood oranges are in season during the winter months. The days are getting longer, the groundhog has emerged without a winter care, and visions of fresh berries, spring peas, and tender leafy greens dance in our heads.

Alas, these vernal thoughts are premature. No matter what any four-footed prognosticator may prognosticate, Old Man Winter’s finest roots and comely Cruciferae will dominate the fresh produce court until late April.

Luckily, this is also the time of year when, through the magic of shipping and distribution, fresh citrus fruits are within easy reach, ripe and ready to be enjoyed by anyone who chooses to venture from their cozy den. None is more appealing than the elusive blood orange (Citrus sinesis var).

Distinctive, refreshing and healthful, the precise origins of this colorful orange varietal are unknown. Most historians agree that blood oranges have a Mediterranean origin and were first cultivated in Sicily during Arab rule in the 9th or 10th centuries. Others believe that cultivated blood oranges hail from China. Wherever the origin, these crimson-hued oranges, seemingly straight out of the Hesperides’ mythical garden, have fascinated citrus lovers ever since.

Blood oranges boast a intense, citrusy, sweet aroma that can easily fragrance a room. The rubescent pebbly skin, once considered too frightening for the midcentury American housewife, now entices modern shoppers to stop and and admire. Slice into one and the moniker’s inspiration is revealed: vibrant juice runs from the lush flesh, its color ranging from orange-rose to deep magenta.

No matter what the folkloric forecast may say, be sure to indulge in these beautiful citrusy delights and experience the fresh-squeezed, early arrival of sunny days ahead.

Sparkling Blood Orangeade

Serves 4-6

Freshly squeezed, slightly bitter, rosy-hued Moro blood orange juice combined with simple syrup and sparkling water makes for a simple, sophisticated beverage.
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) Moro blood orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) lime juice
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) simple syrup*
  • 3 cups cold sparkling water
Combine blood orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup; refrigerate until cold. When ready to serve, stir together blood orange mix and sparkling water in a 1.5 quart pitcher. Serve cold over ice, as desired.

Brunch tip: Add an ounce or two of vodka, gin, or light rum to each glass, add the orangeade.

* To make simple syrup: Combine 1 cup hot water with 1 cup sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves; let cool, covered, to room temperature. Transfer into a sterilized bottle and store in refrigerator. Makes 1 1/2 cups.