A Fun Little Trick with Clementines, After M.F.K. Fisher

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The other day I was peeling a clementine at my kitchen table when I was called away and distracted for several hours. When I returned to my little pile of peels and segments, I noticed that the segments had already started to dry out. Not one to waste anything, I popped a segment in my mouth and wow! What a delicious treat!

The slightly dried out outer layer of the clementine shattered in my mouth as if it was made of a very thin layer of sugar. Underneath, the segment was still succulent and full of juice, which squirted in my mouth creating a textural cacophony that was really fun. It may have been my imagination, but the slight drying seemed to have concentrated the flavors, too.

I recalled then that this was something M.F.K. Fisher used to do with tangerines when she was first living in Strasbourg before WWII:

“In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them…separate each plump little pregnant crescent…Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was the best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on the radiator…After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them…On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow on the sill. They are ready…I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.”

I cannot give you a recipe, for every room temperature and humidity level is different. In my case, with the smaller clementine segments and a fairly warm and dry room, neither the radiator or the snowy windowsill was necessary. But the forgetting about them for several hours is a must!

(Image: Dana Velden)