A couple weeks ago, I got hold of my very first bergamots. Is it worth noting that spell check wants me to replace “bergamots” with “flabbergasts”? Bergamots are, in many ways, a flabbergasty citrus fruit. They are astonishingly fragrant. (You probably already know they’re responsible for the unique scent and flavor of Earl Grey tea.) They also have an eye-opening flavor, very acidic, though the five small fruits given to me were not nearly as bitter as I expected.
The short story of the bergamot is that it’s a variety of sour orange, most commonly grown in Italy. (I’ve met only one person who has a tree here in Northern California. Happily, she is a very generous neighbor.) You can get lots more bergamot story — including links to bergamot recipes and an explanation of how the bergamot name is often given to the “wrong” fruit in France — in David Lebovitz’s post, What Is a Bergamot?
I zested and juiced most of the fruit to make bergamot honey syrup. (I also air dried some peels to use later.) I imagine this syrup could be put to great use in cocktails and baked goods, but I’ve mostly been enjoying it in my homemade ginger tea. And while we’re here, I’d like to show you my tea mug . . .
For a long time, it bugged me, this mug. I am an optimistic person by nature, but the slogan “expect the best” put me on edge. I’m as much perfectionist as optimist and I’ve learned that always having the highest expectations, the most stringent standards, sets me up for needless stress and disappointment. Not what I want from my mug first thing in the morning. Most of the time, I prefer a slogan like “Set your intentions, do your work, and accept what comes” even though I know it’s not really mug appropriate.
I was relieved when I dropped the mug in the sink and the handle snapped off. I thought, “That’s what comes of expecting the best. Now I can get rid of this stupid thing.” But it was such a clean break that it seemed wasteful to throw it out. I asked Stewart to glue the handle back on and he very kindly did so, coming back later to tell me that it hadn’t worked well. The glue swelled so much that, though the handle holds fast, the repair is awkward, anything but seamless. Expect the best, but accept what is. It’s perfect.
Bergamot Honey Syrup
3 cups filtered water
2 cups wildflower honey
2 bergamots, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Wash, zest, and juice the bergamots. Strain the bergamot juice and set it aside. Combine the water, honey, and bergamot zest in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Simmer until thickened, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Remember that the syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.) Remove from heat, skim any foam, and strain out the zest. Stir in the fresh bergamot and lemon juices. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bottle or jar for storage in the fridge. My yield was slightly less than a quart.