BY DEBRA J. MORRIS
From the outside, Cara Cara oranges look similar to a regular navel orange and you’d expect to find orange flesh inside. But cut open a Cara Cara and you will be surprised to find a lovely rosy pink or red flesh. This variety is said to have developed accidentally through a cross with a Washington navel tree in Venezuela. The history is unclear because other stories promote the theory that Cara Cara oranges are just a natural mutation rather than a purposeful cross. Either way, by the 1980s the Cara Cara orange reached the US and immediately became the must-have citrus.
The rind of this orange does not betray the color inside and is a bright, glossy orange like the navel. The flesh is less acidic than a navel orange and has a sweet-tart flavor with notes of cranberry, blackberry, rose, and raspberry.They’re an extremely juicy citrus and usually heavy for their size. They can be used much like other oranges in marinades, salad dressings, jams, juices, and cocktails. They are delicious in salads, sauces, and in chicken or seafood dishes. But eaten out of hand is the best way to enjoy their sublime berry-like flavor.
The Cara Cara is high in vitamin C, fiber, vitamin A, folate, and potassium. The deep color also adds lycopene to the mix. Purchase those that are heavy for their size, have a fresh smell, and have no mold or spots. Store on the kitchen counter for up to 5 days, then in your refrigerator produce bin for a few days more. Eaten as soon after purchase is preferred.
You’ll find Cara Cara oranges and other citrus fruit at the Martinez Farmers’ Market from J&J Ramos Farms out of Hughson. You’ll also find a wide variety of citrus, including Cara Caras from Ken’s Top Notch of Fresno. Both farms bring fruit straight from their orchards to you, fresh-picked flavor intact. You won’t find better quality anywhere else.
4 lbs Cara Cara oranges, about 8 oranges
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar
Using a vegetable peeler or knife, carefully remove peel from 3 or 4 oranges. Using sharp knife, remove any white pith from peel. Cut peel into extremely thin slices; set aside. Remove peel from the remaining oranges; discard peel. Remove white membranes and seeds from oranges. Cut oranges into small pieces.
In 3-quart saucepan, place orange pieces, lemon juice and sugar. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium; simmer about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, place orange peel slices; cover with water. Heat to boiling. Cook about 4 minutes; drain. Add orange peel slices to orange marmalade mixture during last few minutes of simmering.
Ladle marmalade into sterilized jars. Top with sterilized lids/rims. Boil (“process”) jars in a large pot for 10 minutes. (Water should cover tops of jars.) Carefully remove jars from water bath. Place jars on kitchen towel, being careful the jars do not touch each other. Listen to the “pop” of lids to ensure they are sealed. Cool completely before storing.