3.26.14 Days of Wine & Roses

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photos by gluttonforlife
I snagged that title from the 1962 film starring Jack Lemon and Lee Remick as a husband and wife who both succumb to what is referred to as "the alcoholic lifestyle." The pain of such an existence—of any addiction, really—is unfathomable. Life is hard enough without that continual struggle. Both of my mother's sisters were alcoholics and they had complicated lives full of drama. My cousin Lisa died at the age of 48, her liver destroyed, her name still on a long waiting list for a donor organ.

In a recent intervew in Shape magazine, Sharon Stone talks about how, at a certain point in her 40s, she went into the bathroom with a bottle of wine, locked the door, and said, "I’m not coming out until I can totally accept the way that I look right now." (Hey, everything's relative.) Later in the article, she says that, despite her great love of wine, she has given up drinking alcohol because it makes women over 40 look splotchy, puffy and bloated.

So, what am I trying to say here? I guess it's just another opportunity to consider moderation and mindfulness. Too much booze is not a good thing, but I'm pretty sure we can say the same thing about vanity. Which is why I'm not hesitating to offer those of you who can tolerate a little tipple this recipe for a delicious French apéritif called vin d'orange.
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a tisket, a basket
If you've been following this blog for a few years, vin d'orange may ring a bell as I posted about it here in 2011. I gave you a little context for it then, as well as a recipe. I've made it every year since, modifying it a bit and quadrupling the quantities so there's enough to enjoy all year long. I usually make it in the late spring; that way it has time to sit for 6 weeks and be ready for our Bastille Day party in July. Based on rosé wine and fortified with spirits and spices, it's refreshingly delicious on its own, mixed with sparkling wine or water, or stirred into a cocktail.
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warts and all
The key ingredient here—what puts the orange in vin d'orange—is the Seville orange. Not quite as hideous as the ugli fruit (a Jamaican citrus hybrid), the Seville orange is nevertheless a rather homely version of a navel orange. On top of that, it's extremely sour and bitter, and thus also known as sour orange (and marmalade orange and bigarade orange). Actually a hybrid of a pomelo and a mandarin, this rather extreme fruit is highly coveted. For one thing, as with all orange trees, its blossoms smell like heaven. They perfume the streets of Seville with their romantic essence in spring. The oils in the thick, dimpled skins are highly pungent and aromatic. Aside from sugar, these rinds—higher in pectin than that of other oranges—are the sole ingredient in what all connoisseurs know to be the one true marmalade.
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slice of nice
If you hadn't ever tried the classic cochinita pibil of the Yucatan, you might think the sour juices of the Seville orange had no use, but they are an essential part of the marinade for this dish of slow-roasted Mexican pork. This recipe looks both authentic and divine.

If this strange fruit has captured your fancy, and you despair of ever finding it, take heart. It can be ordered online, here. I just got half a bushel ($46), which is about 30 oranges—more than enough for 4 batches of vin d'orange and a big batch of marmalade. Act now, indulge later.

Vin d'Orange II

This needs to sit for at least 6 weeks before drinking, so plan accordingly.
  • — 4 Seville oranges, thoroughly washed
  • — 2 large lemons, thoroughly washed
  • — 400 grams superfine sugar
  • — 1 vanilla pod, split
  • — 1 4" cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • — 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
  • — 2-3 star anise
  • — 6-8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • — 2 litres rosé
  • — 400 ml cognac
  • — 100 ml white rum

Slice citrus in 1/4”-1/2” thick wheels and place in a clean glass container with a wide mouth and a tight-fitting lid. Add remaining ingredients except rum and stir well with a metal spoon (a wooden one could harbor bacteria that might inhibit fermentation) and fasten the lid. Store the jar somewhere cool and dark, shaking occasionally to make sure sugar is dissolved.

After about 6 weeks, mix in rum and strain through a fine mesh strainer or several layers of cheesecloth. Transfer to bottles and store indefinitely at a cool room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


so superb. thank you
erica on March 26, 2014 at 5:14 pm —
laura on March 26, 2014 at 7:07 pm —
This looks sublime! Eataly often carries rare citrus like the Seville orange- and also fresh bergamots which are also oranges!
Chris Gordon on March 26, 2014 at 6:58 pm —
Yes, I like to get a Buddha's hand there once a year. You can dry the peel of bergamot to make your own Earl Grey tea!
laura on March 26, 2014 at 7:08 pm —
This essay on oranges is really evocative. It triggered in me my own memory of walking the streets in Seville for the first time--I was working on a rather odd documentary film project--& inhaling the orange floral fragrance wafting down from the endless rows of trees. Combine that fragrance with the stunning architecture of the city and it was pure sensory overload. Your blog also made me sad, too. March is the month I mourn the end of the California blood orange season. I love the heady intensity of flavor and color that oozes and splatters out of a blood orange. It's a sinful delight that I can only indulge in controlled doses. When I make fresh orange juice in the mornings during the all-to-brief blood orange season I blend them with navels or cara-caras, as if drinking the pure blood orange juice is simply too much. Now I'm back to blending the frozen, pasteurized Sicilian juice with my navels, a flavor journey from the sublime to the passable. I can only dream of your vin d'orange this summer. Larry
Larry Loewinger on March 26, 2014 at 10:51 pm —
To every thing there is a season, Larry. But, thankfully, we do have our modes of preservation!
laura on March 27, 2014 at 9:10 am —
Great quote: "Too much booze is not a good thing but I'm pretty sure we can say the same thing about vanity" - I love your blog for its delicious ideas and sound take on life. Thank you.
Kristin on March 27, 2014 at 1:33 pm —
And I love yours for the same reasons!
laura on March 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm —
From Sharon Stone to Seville oranges, you had me at Hello.
sara on April 2, 2014 at 9:27 pm —