My favorite winter citrus in Japan is yuzu. The deep yellowy-orange sour fruit almost defies description. Shaped like a mandarin orange, it has the piquancy of a lemon and a staggering number of pits.
Mandarin orange (L), yuzu in the middle and lemon (R).
There were over 20 pits in each of my 8 yuzu, each larger than any of 8 pits in the lemon I cut up this morning. Its juice has a distinctive and refreshingly light aroma, tasting like a floral Meyer lemon. Yuzu are prized as much for their rind as for their juice. Marigold-colored slivers shaved from their bumpy skin add a whiff of citrus to hot bowls of broth or tea, and often to cakes and cookies as well. You get precious little liquid when squeezing; maybe a couple of teaspoons from just one yuzu. Yuzu seasons and scents everything from candies, salad dressings,soup, rice, bath water and even soap. The astringent juice is also used in the dipping sauce, ponzu, a mixture of soy sauce, dashi, mirin and citrus. Although yuzu and yuzukosho (aromatic pepper paste) are now appearing on menus in the United States as the latest in Japanese accents, buying just one at a Japanese grocery could set you back more than $5.00. They’re a less than a buck apiece here in Tokyo.
I’m too timid to do what a Japanese friend of mine once did. Defying agricultural restrictions, she stuffed her cache of yuzu inside dirty socks and hid them in her suitcase. My solution was to sharpen my knife and peel thin ribbons of the skin and squeeze out a meager 1/4 cup of the tangy juice.
I laid the peels flat and wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and hope that the juice won’t leak from the cheap container I bought at the 100 yen shop ($1 store — my favorite in Tokyo!).
Friends instructed me to freeze my stash as soon as I get home. I will parse out the peels and drop them into a mug of hot tea and think of early winter in Tokyo.
UPDATE: We just got home to Lexington and the peels and the juice made it intact!