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ingredients and techniques

How To Supreme Citrus Fruits

meg's picture


Citrus season is an exciting time for those of us living in temperate zones. In fact, I know some who would argue that citrus is the only good thing about winter (I would retort that eggnog is another, but that's quite a different matter). In our house, it's a happy time of marmalade, fresh-squeezed orange juice with breakfast, and fluorescent yellow lemon bars. The bright, tart-sweet flavors of citrus fruit mark a lovely contrast to the cold, grey world outside. I am inclined to believe that it is impossible to be unhappy while eating an orange.

There are many ways to eat oranges, as any connoisseur will tell you, although I don't believe there is a way, short of wearing rubber gloves, to eat an orange neatly. There is the divide and conquer method in which the peel is removed and the segments separated by hand. There is also the quick and indiscriminate approach in which the orange is cut into rounds, peel and all.

However, these methods are best for solo orange eating, preferably when no one is watching. It's a delicious but sticky business. But oranges can dress up for parties, too, and you needn't hand out bibs and washcloths at your next brunch affair simply to break out the Valencias. As with many culinary techniques, we have the French to thank for inventing a method which divides the peel and pith from the succulent fruit beneath, leaving your guests free to indulge in citrus without staining their fingernails. This method is called supreming. It is simple enough to learn and a handy thing indeed for those of us wishing to show citrus to its advantage. A bowl of supremed fruit has a place on even the whitest of tablecloths.

To begin, cut off the ends of the fruit--the stem end and the flower end (see photo #2). You should have something that looks like a truncated sphere. Stand the fruit on end (photo #3), and, with a sharp paring knife, slice off the peel and pith in large strips (photos #4-#6). Do not cut straight down, but rather, follow the contours of the fruit to waste as little of it as possible. After cutting off a strip of peel and pith, you should be able to see the bright orange fruit beneath. Rotate the orange and repeat this process until all the peel is removed and you have a juicy, bright orange sphere left.

Holding the sphere over a bowl to catch any juices, cut out the citrus segments from in between the strips of membrane surrounding them (photo #7). Lift out each segment and remove any seeds. When you have segmented the entire fruit (photo #8), squeeze any remaining juices from the pithy part.

Other articles you might enjoy: Mastering the Pomegranate, Notes On the Persimmon, Tomato Frenzy: Peeling and Freezing


Kathy's picture

Thanks for posting this! I have made a mess when doing this in the past and maybe won't next time!

meg's picture

You're welcome, Kathy! Really, it just takes practice. I got a lot better at it when I was working at a restaurant and had to make big batches of marmalade every week. Supreming dozens of oranges and lemons every week will really help you improve ;)

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