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Pairing Ugli Fruit and Cheese


Broiled Ugli fruit with creamy mascarpone cheese

Ruby red grapefruit. Key limes. Juicy little clementines. The citrus family is a diverse one, whose members lend their sweet, tart character to cuisines all over the world. In recent years, heaps of intriguing hybrid varieties have rolled into the market, including Cara Cara oranges, oroblancos (sweeties), and ugli fruit.

While not a looker like its more dazzling cousins the blood orange or Meyer lemon, Jamaican-bred ugli fruit’s bumpy, pale-green skin belies a sweet, juicy flesh with palate-refreshing charm. Its flavor falls somewhere between pink grapefruit and navel orange, with an easy-peeling skin and fruit that yields a ton of juice.

But pairing citrus and cheese can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Google “citrus and cheese” and the top hits may warn you to avoid pairing the two. This is because the bitter pith and ascorbic acid in citrus can overwhelm the nuanced flavors in cheese. But that doesn’t mean you have to rule it out, says Cristina Topham of The Wayward Chef, a Sonoma, Calif. private chef and catering company. Citrus fruits have dynamic flavor profiles that include bitter, sweet, tart, and floral notes. Transcend acid overload, says Topham, by introducing other ingredients or techniques that tame or offset the ugli fruit’s acidity and draw out its honeyed, floral qualities.

Play around a little and you’ll discover some unique flavor matches—all of which taste far better than ugli sounds.

Fresh Ugli Fruit

To pair fresh ugli fruit with cheese, treat it as you would a grapefruit or orange: Peel the fruit, remove the bitter pith, and slice. Add to a simple salad of crisp, mild fennel and sharp greens, such as arugula. A range of textures and flavors will take the focus off the acid in the fruit. Add some crumbled blue cheese, especially ones made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, and what emerges is a funk-forward flavor that highlights the brightness of each ingredient.


Berria de Onetik Bleu de Basques
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fresh ugli fruit


Carr Valley Cheese Billy Blue
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fresh ugli fruit

Broiled Ugli Fruit

If you’ve ever had grapefruit broiled with brown sugar and cinnamon, you know that the spices and heat transform the fruit into a very special treat. Prepare ugli fruit the same way—warming and sweetening the fruit softens its acidic edge— topped with a dollop of soft cheese, such mascarpone or ricotta, to take it straight to dessert territory.


BelGioioso Mascarpone
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broiled ugli fruit


Narragansett Creamery Renaissance Ricotta
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broiled ugli fruit

Ugli Fruit Marmalades

When piles of rind, pith, and fruit become a sparkly marmalade, it’s flavor alchemy. Pairings can be equally magical. Marmalades are more dimensional than jams, due to the floral essential oils in the fruit’s skin and the bitterness of the pith. But that assertive bitter note can be tricky to pair well, notes Napa Valley chef David Katz. “Be careful about putting too much bitterness of different types together,” he says. When pairing an ugli fruit marmalade, says Katz, avoid cheeses with forward bitter notes of their own—such as pungent Époisses—or cheeses whose bloomy rind you’re likely to eat, like Brie.


Fromagerie Pardou Brebis
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ugli fruit marmalade


Cypress Grove Chevre Purple Haze
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ugli fruit marmalade


This article originally appeared in our 2015 Cheese+ ultimate Pairings issue. If you’d like to see all 26 amazing cheese pairings, purchase a copy today!

Leigh Belanger

Leigh Belanger is culture's former food editor. She's been a food writer, editor, and project manager for over a decade— serving as program director for Chefs Collaborative and contributing to local newspapers and magazines. Her first book, The Boston Homegrown Cookbook, was published in 2012. She lives and cooks in Boston with her family.

Photographer Evi Abeler

Evi Abeler is a food and still life photographer based in New York City. She helps art directors, cookbook authors and designers to communicate the love, passion and thought that goes into every project and creates modern, yet classic images. Her clients in advertising, publishing, hospitality and retail include Food & Wine Magazine (which named her Digital Food Award Winner), Harper Collins Publishing and Whole Foods Markets.

Stylist Laura Knoop

Laura Knoop is a New York City-based food stylist with a studio in Harlem.