Wintertime means citrus season with an abundance of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, cumquats and Seville oranges hanging on neighbourhood trees and at farmers market stalls. There are even Rangpur limes, a type of 'mandarin lime' or 'lemonadrin' – loosely translated as a mandarin orange – rough lemon hybrid. Although we don’t all have a citrus tree or two in our front or backyard, no doubt you know someone who does and so often there is an excess of fruit available beyond the needs of the average household.
Alex Elliott-Howery and husband James Grant stumbled upon a neighbourhood laden with an abundance of citrus in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Marrickville. Their café Cornersmith has remained a community favourite since 2012, a place for locals to gather and eat great food. I wrote about it here .
‘From day one the locals flocked in, and Cornersmith has since grown to incorporate a picklery, cooking school and trading system where customers can swap home-grown produce for a coffee or a jar of pickles.’ (Excerpt from - Cornersmith – Recipes from the café and picklery – Murdoch Books 2015)
A couple of weekends ago I headed out to Marrickville to the picklery to participate in the Citrus in the City workshop. I was eager to learn any and every tip on preserving the citrus harvest and I wasn’t alone, surrounded by a class of twelve enthusiastic would-be preservers. It was a relaxed class with Alex at the helm sharing her passion and knowledge that only comes from years of simply having a go at the preserving life. Alex’s delight in experimenting and utilising every bit of produce that comes through the door is infectious, you can’t help but be excited and intrigued as she talks about her flavoured vinegars and boozy cumquats.
For three hours we were consumed with the fragrance of citrus; a marmalade bubbling away on the stove, sitting alongside the beginnings of a humble spiced lime pickle. Meanwhile we preserved limes packed in salt and then pondered the question of adding either chilli and spices or a boozy sugar syrup with cinnamon and clove to our jar of cumquats. In between we savoured tasters of a variety of jams and pickles. Once we were finished we gathered around a platter of hand-made labne cheese, pickled cucumbers, an onion and mustard pickle, cultured butter and sourdough bread, with the option of a locally brewed beer to wash it all down. We all left with armfuls of jars of preserves, inspired and empowered by Alex to preserve the future harvest. Now I find myself wandering with eyes wide open, around my neighbourhood looking for citrus trees that are looking lonely, laden and ripe for the picking.
Citrus in the City runs again Saturday 6th August, plus a range of other wonderful workshops here
Alternatively you can grab a copy of the Cornersmith Cookbook a delightful story filled with wonderful recipes to try at home.