November 1, 2008

Candied Buddha Hand

The bizarre citrus fruit known as the "Buddha's Hand Citron" is something I'd only ever seen on Iron Chef. Then, while stopping off at a fruit stand in Stinking Bakersfield while coming back from one of my innumerable trips there for work, I saw a flat of these weird guys available for sale, three dollars each. So I got one. Turns out that was a great bargain; in the big city they're only available at gourmet stores and high-end markets like Gelson's, and they go for eight to ten dollars per fruit.

It smells great, like a fresh lemon with a hint of jasmine. I sliced it open, and it had basically no pulp at all -- it's like the white rind of a citrus fruit all the way through. Well, I'm not planning on cooking anything that needs quite that much lemon rind in the near future, so I had to figure out what to do with this tentacled lemon. So after looking around a variety of online sites mentioning it, I found that the most common thing done with it is to candy the fruit and eat it that way.

So, I approached the task about the way I would approach candying up any citrus rind -- I consulted my handy-dandy copy of The Joy Of Cooking and got the basic technique, and then adapted what I had learned to the task at hand.

To candy a citrus rind, normally you just spread the rind out. The Buddha Hand, being basically all rind, needed to be sliced up. So after washing the fruit, I set my mandolin up and made cross-sectional cuts. This left some of the tentacles free at the end of the session, which was fine. The result was about thirty slices of about one-eighth of an inch thickness, and the "fingers," which were about a quarter-inch thick.

Into a pot of cold water they all went, and that got put on low heat. After about fifteen minutes, the water was boiling nicely. So I dumped out the boiling water and replaced it with cold water and repeated this four times. By the end, all of the slices of the Buddha Hand had become nearly transparent. Then, I put them in a simple sugar syrup and boiled that down until it was dry. The base of the fruit makes a very interesting pattern, kind of like a pale yellow cauliflower would if it were big enough to be handled that way -- but when the boiling was done, the result was small, vague cube-shaped lumps; the flowery shapes of the "chips" of the Buddha Hand had been broken down into a compote by the candying process.

The ultimate taste is a pleasing mix of sweet, tangy, and a little bitter -- like a good marmalade. I don't know that I'd go to all this trouble (and mess) very often, but it will make a good accent to a spinach salad, in a cake, or even a complement to ice cream.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got one of these for my dad's birthday as a joke. I didn't even know it was a citrus fruit since I have never even seen of heard of one before. Im in the prosses of boiling the fingers up in sugar and water. Hopefully this comes out good. Thank you for the post!!