Chanukah is here, and Christmas is almost upon us. Winter solstice celebrations bring to mind two popular seasonal fruits: sweet oranges and enticing pears. We have a great selection of both this year.
First up, the citrus: it's Clementine season for sure. These sweet delights make perfect gifts since they are easy to peel and segment, and almost nearly seedless. Stop in and pick up a five-pounder for only $5.99 (sale price in effect until Christmas). A popular item for kids because of their size.
Kumquats are here too. If you are unfamiliar with these tiny citrus fruits, you might find the following strange: you eat the rind, not the sour flesh inside. The flesh and juices inside ARE edible (I eat kumquats whole), but most people don't like the flavor.
A new item for us this year is the Scarlett Navel orange. On the outside it looks just like a classic Navel Orange. Inside, Scarlet Navels have the deep red color of the Ruby Red Grapefruit. We picked these up from the distribution center while we were shopping for Moro Blood Oranges. Well, what a great find, because these are my new favorite citrus fruits. Like the more familiar Golden Navels, Scarlet Navel Oranges are seedless, thin-skinned and easy to peel and section.
I taste-tested the Scarlett Navel along with a traditional Florida Navel; the difference in flavor is difficult to describe. It was certainly just as sweet. However, I can only describe it as being slightly "different," but very delicious to be sure. You won't regret picking some up.
It's also pear season, and we have a strong variety of them. Bartlett season is usually over by now, but favorable growing conditions have allowed continued harvesting. They are here and are eating great. We also have the red-skinned Starkrimson, the spicy brown Bosc, the delicate Forelle, Chinese White Ya-Li pears, and, possibly the greatest tasting pear available, the chubby Comice pear.
Regular pear consumers know that they can sometimes be a little work. A pear will almost always be unripe when you find them on the counters. Because pears bruise easily, they are picked and shipped in an unripened state. But don't worry - they'll actually ripen better on your counter than in the store or even on the tree. Properly ripening pears at home is the most important thing you can do to improve their flavor.
Choose firm, fragrant fruit without soft spots. A blemish on the surface is okay; they are only skin-deep. Pierce a paper bag in several places and keep your pears inside. Fold the top over, and set aside outside of refrigeration for two to seven days. Make sure you check the pears often as their peak lasts only a couple of days. You may want to add an apple or banana as the release of ethylene gas will speed the ripening process. Press on the neck of the pear to check for ripeness. They should give slightly when ready. Don't wait until the pear is soft all over as they ripen from the inside first. Soft pears will be really mushy inside. Once ripe, you can refrigerate them for few days.
Pears may be a little more complicated than most fruits, but they are well worth it.