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Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 11:56 a.m.

Hate peeling oranges? How to segment citrus fruits

I wonder if you are like me when it comes to purchasing citrus. I hesitate before loading up on fruits that require peeling. I have a bad habit of buying these sun-soaked winter treats only to sit for weeks in the fruit basket. I give the fruit a glance when I walk through the kitchen, a sort of non-verbal apology for abandoning them. It took too much time to remove all the skin and bitter white bits just to get at fruit that might turn out to be dry and fibrous. A few years ago I learned how to segment citrus. Now I have a whole new enthusiasm for this winter treat.

I think the best way to learn this technique is to show rather than tell. I hope the images will give you a good idea of how to achieve these tempting bites.

Cutting a grapefruit or a navel orange uses an almost identical method. With the grapefruit you'll need to be aware of the seeds, but they are easy to spot and remove. The structure of the navel orange is a little more complex than the grapefruit. It may look a little odd when you remove the ends, but don't worry; the segments should be easy to identify and remove, you may just have a few small ones in the mix.

1. Use a sharp knife that you can hold firmly and a cutting board with a channel around the perimeter to collect the juices.

2. Remove both the top and bottom. Try to cut just enough of the peel to expose the fruit. You can cut away more later if you need to.

3. With one flat side against the cutting board, run your knife along the inside of one section of peel from top to bottom. Make your cut is shallow and follows the curve of the fruit. Again, any remaining pith (white bits) can be removed later. Continue in small sections around the outside of the fruit. Once the peel has been removed, turn the fruit over to expose any remaining peel. Work from the top down to remove the remaining peel or pith.

4. Now you should see the membranes that create the divisions of the fruit segments. Lay the fruit on its side and carefully slide your knife along the inside of one of the membranes just to the center of the fruit. Do not cut the fruit in half. Working in the same segment, slide your knife along the inside of the membrane on the opposite side just to the center of the fruit. The segment should slide right out.

5. Continue slicing along the insides of the membranes, segment by segment, all the way around the fruit.

Tips:

  • Make a lot! Practice makes perfect, and these come out so juicy and delicious you will wish you had more.
  • Set aside a small block of time and grab a big bowl to collect the discarded peels.
  • If you are feeling ambitious, you can add the extra step of zesting the outside of the fruit before removing the peels. The zest can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
  • Squeeze the removed peel over your cut segments to extract any additional juice.
  • After removing the segments, save the inner remains to blend into smoothies. Take a few moments to make sure all the large seeds have been removed.
  • The prepared citrus can go into a covered dish in the refrigerator for a few days. The segments can be eaten as is, piled on top of mixed greens for a super fancy salad, cooked down with a touch of sugar to make a compote, or heaped on top of yogurt for a quick anytime snack.
Why go to the trouble? Well, in my (occasionally humble) opinion, the fruit tastes cleaner and fresher this way. A whole pile of fruit can be prepared fairly quickly with this method. For most people, prepared fruit is far more likely to be eaten before it goes off. Also, your kitchen will smell amazing when you are finished. Cutting all that citrus releases their essential oils in to the air -- move over plug-ins, this is the real deal.

My most recent round of citrus segments included three red grapefruit, two large navel oranges, and a cup of pomegranate arils. The prepared fruit looked like a bowl of shining jewels. If I had let him, The Little Helping would have gobbled the entire bowl up in one sitting. Instead I served it atop a bed of arugula, spinach, and baby chard. No additional dressing was needed. Delicious!

How about a bowl of segmented grapefruit with a small diced avocado and a sprinkling of minced red onion? Gorgeous, full of flavor, packed with good-for-you vitamins, and so simple to throw together. Can you imagine it alongside a piping hot enchilada?

Give segmenting fruit a try. In no time you'll be enjoying bowls of sun-soaked citrus. Tell cold and flu season to take a hike and give those winter blues the boot. In your kitchen, there will be only sunshine and blue skies.

Story tags » FoodCooking

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