“Actually, it is very simple, and the only tricks to it are in having one’s own tangerine trees—and the patience to squeeze the juice from at least a twelve-quart water bucket of the tangerines.” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek Cookery, 1942.
O.K., she may have overstated the number of tangerines, but Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings knew how to turn an abundance of seasonal fresh produce into delicacies .
Back before the Farm to Table movement had taken hold or I had ever heard of Michael Pollan or Wendell Berry, we bought our Old House with a small citrus grove in the yard. Moving from a thin row house in Washington, D.C. to central Florida, I was determined to use every last bit of my new-found bounty of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.
So I filled the freezer with juice and learned to prepare a real tangerine sherbet that is nothing like the old tubs of orange-colored ice my mother used to keep on hand for summer treats.
No, as Rawlings noted, this is a dish that has “an extremely exotic flavor and is a gorgeous color.” It is also an easy make ahead treat that is perfect as a Christmas gift, spooned over vanilla ice cream or eaten by the gallon right out of the container.
Sadly, our tangerine tree succumbed last year to old age and disease. This has left us with a void of readily available sherbert. Although our kids are grown now and no longer plow through pounds of it while leaving sticky spoons all over the house, they miss the tree as much as I do and keep asking when we’ll get another sherbert tree. So this Florida winter, you will find me out at the farm stand buying bags of tangerines and getting that juicer fired up.
I hope Santa will bring me a new tree…
Cross Creek Tangerine Sherbet
I cup sugar
1 ½ cups of water
Juice of one large lemon
4 cups tangerine juice
Zest from 4 tangerines
Boil sugar and water for ten minutes. Then add the tangerine zest to the syrup while hot. Let cool slightly and add the lemon and tangerine juice. Taste for sweetness and acidity, as the tangerines vary. Chill thoroughly, strain and freeze.
I freeze some of the sherbet in single serving containers for easy desert options or treats for the neighbors.