Freeze: Satsuma!

My neighbor down the street used to tell me: “In Houston we have a saying. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute”. And he was right. Over the years that I’ve lived in Houston, I definitely learned to expect whimsical temperature swings, come winter, in the span of a week, day or even morning. And we’re talking warm socks and boots one day, dipping toes in the pool the next. That fickle!

The overall mild winter in Houston allows for a colorful citrus season that runs roughly from end of October into April and brings juicy citrus from ruby red grapefruit to tiny kumquats to the popular hardy, loose-skinned tangerine called Satsuma.

But this morning saw a sudden freeze that I hadn’t experienced in Houston yet. After a balmy high 60s earlier this week, temperatures suddenly dropped to below freezing overnight.

Farmer and market vendor social media posts all blurted out the same: get the citrus in! Local citrus may be hardy and withstand temperatures dropping into the 30s but anything lower than that does them in. And this morning, it went below what citrus can take.

It was in the 20s – or a freezing -5 in Celcius.

With local farmers’ trees laden with grapefruits, lemons and juicy, ripe Satsuma, the sudden freeze had them all frantically harvesting what they could. The Satsuma vendor at the market told me they’d been out harvesting citrus until 2am that morning. “And I still have 5000 lbs on the trees that are lost, unless someone comes to help harvest and juices them right away.”

Quick Satsuma Chipotle Chili Jam

(Makes about 2 cups)

8 satsumas

1 cup raw cane sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon (optional: it tones down the sweetness)

1 pinch ground chipotle

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 pinch of salt

Juice six of the Satsumas and segment the remaining two. Remove any seeds. Bring all ingredients together to a boil in a saucepan, reduce to low and simmer until thickened (takes about 15 minutes over low heat).

Let cool down and serve over roasted duck, guinea hen or chicken, or with grilled thick-cut pork chops.

ps. If you’re not a fan of the smoky flavor of chipotle, or want less heat: use a ground chili you like instead!

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