From the moment the seasons changed, I started badgering my grocer about blood oranges. January, he said. I was so thrilled about the first blood orange I got my hands on, that I photographed it and put it on Instagram. By now, Instagram is exploding with this beautiful fruit. What is it about blood oranges that gets us all excited?
Blood oranges have always appealed to me. I think it was the color that won me over. I remember my mother cutting open an orange and being enthralled by the dark red, almost purple, flesh. I wasn't a big fan of citrus back then, but that color was enough to make me try one. Honestly, I don't remember if I actually liked blood oranges at first ... I can imagine that their flavor was too strong, too tart, too outspoken for my younger self. Still, I kept coming back to them year after year. When I was in college, I used to buy bottles and bottles of blood orange juice. They were too expensive, of course, but seeing them lined up in the grocery store ... I simply couldn't resist. Eventually, I guess, I grew to love them for both their color and their flavor.
Today, I think, their appeal goes beyond color and flavor alone. Yes, I'm still very much enthralled by both. Every morning, as I'm peeling a blood orange for breakfast, I wonder if this one will have the same deep red color as the ones I remember from my childhood. Yet, what strikes me most, is how this simple piece of fruit continues to claim my attention, morning after morning. I cannot just eat it; I am always fully aware of its feel, its smell, its taste, its preciousness. I haven't yet come across a blood orange that is quite as dark as the ones my mother used to buy, but I feel grateful for every piece of crimson flesh I see and savor.
I didn't much think about seasonality until a couple of years ago. Despite my parents' love for nature, despite their remarks about "strawberries not being in season," even, I don't remember being fully aware of what it entailed as a kid. Later, as a teenager and young adult, I admit that I didn't much care. Everything was readily available, so I ate what I felt like eating. Until I met Thomas. On multiple occasions in the past five years, he's put me on the spot. He's pointed my attention to the way things grow, to the flow of nature, to the senselessness of tomatoes in January. He made me think about the origins of our food and the respect it deserves. He helped my love for eating turn into a genuine love for food.
Blood oranges, for me, tap into those feelings. They are one of the few fruits and vegetables that aren't available year-round, one of the few that are still very much a seasonal product. Because there is only a small window of time in which to enjoy them, they incite excitement. More importantly, they incite gratitude. Blood oranges remind us that produce is a living, growing thing and that we are still very much dependent on nature's course. They remind us not to take our food for granted. They remind us to pay attention ... to seasonality and the preciousness of produce, but also, simply, to the moment.
This blood orange curd is my way of trying to hold on to that feeling. Trying to capture that gratitude and attention in a little jar and savoring it in little bits throughout the year.
• Instead of cooking the curd au bain marie, as is often advised, I cooked it directly in a saucepan. This takes less time, but also increases the risk of your eggs cooking and your mixture curdling. Be sure to keep the heat on low and to keep the mixture moving. Basically, do not stop stirring. If you don't feel confident about making curd directly in the pan, feel free to make it in a double boiler instead.
• I find that blood oranges, when cooked for too long, can develop a strange, slightly nasty taste. To avoid this, I took the curd off the heat a little bit earlier than I normally would, around the time when it started to give off a concentrated blood orange smell. This didn't noticeably affect the thickness of the curd. After adding the butter and letting it cool completely, it had just the right silky, texture.
• I secretly hoped this curd would have a darker, maybe even red color. With 6 egg yolks and blood oranges that weren't very dark to begin with, though, it simply wasn't meant to be.
Blood Orange Curd
makes ca. 400 ml / 2 cups
6 egg yolks
100 ml fresh blood orange juice (from 1-2 blood oranges)
20 ml fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
160 gr granulated sugar
80 gr unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1. In a medium saucepan (or a double boiler), combine egg yolks, juices and sugar. Over low heat and whisking constantly, heat the mixture until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
2. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the cubed butter.
3. Once butter is fully incorporated, transfer curd to a clean jar and screw on the lid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.