Bergamot Orange (Citrus aurantium subsp. Bergamia), is a small spiny tree, native to South East Asia, with fruit that resembles large lemon. Latest genetic research indicates that it is rather a natural cross between the sweet lemon (Citrus limetta) and the sour orange (Citrus aurantium).
Since 16th century bergamot is grown in the Mediterranean area. It is extensively cultivated for commercial purposes in Italy and particularly in the Ionian region of the the province of Calabria. An uncomparable high-quality essential oil is extracted from the peels of bergamot oranges, which is used in the fragance and pharmaceutical industries, in the Earl Grey tea and in the food industry. In Greece, bergamot orange (pergamonto in Greek) is grown in certain Aegean islands, Crete and Peloponnese.
- An extraordinary liquor is produced in Chios island.
- The peel becomes a delicious bittersweet spoon sweet which is eaten by itself or garnishes strained yoghurt.
- The zest adds a hint of flavor in cakes, cookies and creams.
- The pulp is very acid and almost inedible, however the juice can be used in citrus fruits marmalades, or in vinaigrettes.
The recipe of ‘croquettes ala crème au bergamote’ in a Greek cookbook of French spirit, printed in Constantinople and dated in 1863 (Sarantis N., A Work on Cooking [Siggrama tis magirikis]), gives us the first use of bergamot zest by Greeks .
Bergamot spoon sweet
900 gr. sugar
3 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
Wash and dry the bergamots. Grate them to get rid of the bitter layer of the peel. Keep the zest in the refrigerator for a future use in cakes and cookies. With a knife cut through the skin of bergamots in 6-8 places and pull each piece from the fruit.
Carefully roll each piece. Prick it with a needle threaded with cotton string, and after threading about 10 pieces, cut the string and tie the ends. Do the same until you finish with the rest of the peel.
In a large pot bring about ¾ of water to a boil. Add the rolled peels and after 3-4 minutes remove them and drop them in a large pot filled with cold water. Leave them for 10 hours, changing the water every 2-3 hours. Remove from the water and dry them.
Bring 3 cups of water, the lemon juice and sugar to a boil. Add the rolled peels and cook them until tender (15-20 minutes). Remove the peels carefully, place them on a plate and cut the strings. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil and cook stirring, until a thick syrup is formed. Add the peels and boil them for 1 more minute.
Sterilize a large jar, pack the peels in it, pour the very hot syrup over them and cover the jar. Store the jar in a cool place. Bergamot peel is served on a very small plate with a glass of cold water, or as a topping on strained yogourt.