Berries and citrus fruit are traditionally positioned far apart from each other on the seasonal eating calendar. Berries are summertime’s beauties while citrus fruits stand as wintertime staples. Season-extending agriculture techniques, advances in flash-freezing technology, and a well-connected food transportation cold chain, though, give consumers today year-round access to both. That makes exploring berry and citrus combinations a fruitful exercise.
The intersection of these two segments of the fruit universe lies in their mutually low sugar content. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are commonly included in lists of the top 10 low-sugar fruits to be eaten out of hand.
Where citrus fruits and berries meet often is during the preservation process: think jams, jellies, sauces, and syrups. Despite their low sugar content, berries of all types still contribute a natural sweetness and vibrant color to the mix. On the other end of the taste continuum, the acid in citrus juice raises pH levels to make these mixtures shelf stable, helps the natural pectin in them set up, and balances their overall flavor. Citrus peel is often included for a bitter undertone as well as a nose, as 90 percent of any citrus aroma derives from the oils in its peel. In these cooked fruit confections, another sweetener—sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave—is almost always in play to make up for the fruits’ sugar shortfall.
Classic berry-citrus preserved pairings include lemon and blueberry pie filling, orange cranberry sauce, raspberry-lime syrup, and grapefruit-and-strawberry marmalade. More exotic pairings are lingonberry and mandarin marmalade, black currant and lime syrup, redcurrant and lemon curd, and bilberry and lemon pie fillings.
When cheese is to be sidled up to any of these combination berry and citrus confitures, look to fresh, soft cheeses from chèvre and burrata to feta and halloumi. The acid and bitter tones of the citrus complement, rather than clash, with these young, creamy cheeses as they might with a rinded triple crème or a pungent blue. The vibrant berries show off against the cool, typically white, cheese canvas.
- 1 ½ cups raspberries (6 ounces), plus more for garnish
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
- Seltzer water
- Fresh raspberries (for garnish)
- ►Combine berries, sugar, ¾ cup water, and red chili pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until berries start to release their juices, about 2 minutes. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat. Let syrup steep until it comes to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar.
- ►Combine two ounces of syrup and one ounce of lime juice in a glass filled with ice. Top up the glass with seltzer and serve garnished with a raspberry and a lime twist.