Updated 11/3: Welcome Chow.com visitors!
Photo: A supremed Louisiana Satsuma. (Jason Perlow)
It’s the beginning of November, so you know what that means! No, not time to start stocking up with on-sale leftover bags of HFCS-laden industrial confections for last week’s costumed brats. It’s time for Satsumas! Yes, the juicy and wonderful loose-skinned Mandarins that come from Southern Louisiana.
If you’ve never had Louisiana citrus before, it is sensational and a true eye opener, and totally worth the premium of having it shipped to you. Louisiana only produces a fraction of the produce that Florida and California does, but in my opinion the Satsumas that are grown in Louisiana are far superior to mandarins grown in those states and the clementines brought in from Spain. The Southern Louisiana climate is ideal for these fruits, which have a highly aromatic peel that is literally almost falling off in the first place and are absolutely brimming with sweet and tangy juice.
Here’s a bit of interesting info from Charles over at LaLagniappe.com:
“Orange trees will only survive Louisiana winters in the areas near the Gulf of Mexico. Even in those areas, we usually have a severe freeze every 10 years or so that cause major damage to the orchards. But we’re a persistent bunch and always replant and try again <grin>. Most orchards were southeast of New Orleans, along the Mississippi River as it heads into the Gulf. That was the area hardest hit by Katrina. Most of those orchards were wiped out and all sustained major damage from salt water and winds. The oranges we sell come from an orchard also along the Mississippi River, but northwest of New Orleans, just across the river from the New Orleans airport. This area was spared the worst of the storm and the trees were somewhat protected from the eastern winds by the Mississippi River levee.”
And don’t forget to order Red Navel oranges from Louisiana either:
“The best kept secret of south LA citrus is the red Navel oranges. Navels can not withstand as much cold as the Satsumas or Louisiana Sweets, so we lose some every time there is a decent freeze. However, those that survive and the best Navel oranges I have ever eaten. They are somewhat rare and seldom seen for sale since almost all are consumed by the growers or their friends and relatives. They look like a ruby red grapefruit when cut open, but believe me they are *all* Navel! Maybe I am just prejudiced, and maybe it is because you never really get a tree ripened Navel elsewhere, but I really believe they are the best tasting oranges in the world. And I’ve eaten oranges from Israel to California to Brazil.”
Simon is going to be selling Satsumas again this year but the trees got pretty beat up by Katrina and are still recovering, so I am going to give them a break this time. This year I ordered two boxes from Charles at LaLagniappe.com, who seems to have trees utterly filled with fruit according to photos he’s supplied me with:
A Satsuma orchard northwest of New Orleans (Charles Copes)
Satsuma fruit closeup (Charles Copes)
Satsumas are picked at this color in the first part of the harvest. The fruit is juicy ripe inside even though the color is a mottled orange-green. Two weeks later, they are bright orange. (Charles Copes)
Don’t be afraid of ordering 40lbs worth. It’s totally easy to eat four or five in one sitting because they are so easy to peel and they are small fruits. The zest is phenomenal for using in cakes and pastry, Chinese stir fries (the most killer Orange Beef you’ve ever had) or for making liquor infusions — just grate up a ton of the zest with a Microplane and then dump it in a bottle of premium vodka for two weeks, then strain out. Best Martini you’ve ever had, I garontee.
And you can make this killer Satsuma Cake too:
Flourless satsuma cake, made with Nigella Lawson’s recipe (Jason Perlow)
This uses whole satsumas, cooked for 2 hours in a pot of water, then
blitzed in the food processor with eggs, almonds and sugar and butter and baked in a springform pan.