History Dish Mondays: American Citron

A sweet preparation of American citron.

There’s a recipe I come across again and again in 19th century cookbooks: Citron, or American Citron. The earliest recipe appears in the first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons:

Citron, I’ve discovered, is a cirrus fruit native to southern Asia. The pulp is inedible; instead, the rind is cut up and preserved. I supposed it was generally unavailable in early America, so watermelon rind was used as a substitute.
I found a few recipe in later 19th c cookbook that suggest brining citron, like a pickle. So I decided to make two batches, a sweet preparation and a savory.
***
American Citron (sweet)
From American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons.
1 quarter watermelon, fruit and skin removed, sliced into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup sugar.
Place watermelon rind slices and sugar into a pot, cover with water, and bring to a slow boil. Boil for about two hours, or until tender. Pour into a canning jar and seal, cool in refrigerator for at least two hours.
American Citron (savory)
Based on a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp mace
Bring ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Arrange rind slices in a jar. Pour hot brine into a jar until rind is completely covered and seal jar. Refrigerate until cool, about two hours (or up to 1 week).
***

For canning, I used an old spaghetti sauce jar and a canning jar that some face cream came in (I washed it). When I opened up the jars the next day, I was surprised to find that the steam had created a tight seal on both jars, including resealing the spaghetti sauce jar. I’ve never canned before, so these things amaze me. I sampled both citron preparations: the preserved citron was soft and almost completely transparent. It tasted like sugar melon and feet. The pickled citron was crunchier, but also a little slimy. I remembered reading some 19th c recipes that warned against the slime, and recommended soaking it in a brine, rinsing it, and brining it again to get rid of it. My bad.

The odd part about citron is that there are many more recipes for preserving it than how to eat it, or what to eat it with. Now that I’ve successfully made citron, I have to figure out what the hell to do with it.

American citron, brined.

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