This outsized, nobbly citrus, is yet another unusual fruit found here in Crete. It is not to be found in everybody`s orchard though. However, if you hunt around some of the older villages, you may be lucky enough to find a bergamot tree.
The type I was given appear to be the uncultivated type, which in no way resembles the cultivated one. See here. When it comes to their usage, Cretan housewives create yet another epic spoon sweet. Although the actual flesh, described as tasting somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit, is edible, it is the rind which is valued here. Using the bare minimum of ingredients, allows the aromatic rind to work it`s magic. I describe the process below.
The essence extracted from the aromatic peel is used for flavouring not only Earl Grey tea, but an all round favorite, turkish delight! I awoke the next morning after preparing the sweet and the divine aroma still permeated the house.
500 g approx, bergamot peel
1 kilo sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Juice from one large lemon
Wash the bergamot well under running water. Due to the uneven surface of the fruit, use a very sharp knife to scrape away the exterior of the peel, in and around the lumps. (This can be kept and used to flavor cakes or salad dressings etc.)
Slice a ring off the top and the bottom of the fruit, continue with four vertical cuts, which will allow you to pull away the peel in sections. Discard the fruit. Remove any fibrous strands from the inner part of the peel.
Put the sections into a pan with cold water and boil for 10 minutes. Strain the peel and add to cold water again. Once they are cool enough to handle, slice into thin sticks.
Repeat the boiling procedure, discarding the water and adding fresh, twice more. At this point you should check to see if the peel retains some bitterness. This is purely personal preference. It is a characteristic of this spoon sweet to retain a slight hint of bitterness. If you prefer to eliminate the bitterness completely, leave in cold water over night.
If not, continue, by straining the peel, press lightly to expel excess water. Add the water and the sugar to a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring, to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Add the chopped peel and leave to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave until the next day.
Next day boil the peel to bring the syrup to setting consistency, using a plate kept in the freezer to check periodically the thickness of the syrup.
Once the syrup has thickened, add the lemon juice, allow the sweet to boil for a minute or so more and remove from the heat. Jar up into sterilized jars.
You`ll be the envy of your friends when you serve this special treat.