For years our Italian friend Bill (Guglielmo) made his special ricotta cheesecakes and gave them to us and to other friends and family members. They tasted better than any cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and I’d been told they took a long time to make. Bill is getting up in his age, and hasn’t made a cheesecake in several years, so this year we decided to surprise him and make him one of his cheesecakes for Thanksgiving.
I got out the recipe he had hand-written for us many years ago, and the cheesecake itself didn’t sound like it was that hard to make. However (and there’s always a “however”, isn’t there?), his recipe called for home-made candied citron, and I soon learned why his cheesecake took so long to make.
Citron is actually a primitive citrus fruit all its own, and not just some various lemons and oranges mixed together. We couldn’t find a “regular” citron in any of the local markets, but fortunately Whole Foods had the fingered citron variety, also known as “Buddha’s hand”, so that’s what I used.
I cut the fingers off the citron and sliced them in half. It’s the pulp and the skin of the citron that you want to candy, so the fingers seemed like the perfect starting point. Just for fun, I decided to candy a Navel orange too, so I sliced it up and separated the skin/pulp from the rest of the orange. The recipe I found on line said to boil them for 10 minutes, drain them, and boil them another 10 minutes in another clean pot of water. After the two boilings they were a lot more supple.
Then the recipe said to cut the blanched citron into small pieces and boil it in sugar water, using a candy thermometer and boiling the mixture until the temperature reached 230 degrees. I’ve never done anything like this before, and never used a candy thermometer. Little did I realize how long it would take to reach a temperature of 230 degrees! I guess in the old days when women spent all day cooking, it wasn’t uncommon to watch something boil on the stove for several hours. However, it certainly was a learning experience for me!
After reaching the magical temperature I removed the citron mixture from the heat, cooled it, and separated it into small jars. I’ll use one of the jars tomorrow when I make the cheesecake itself, and I’ll give another one of the jars to Bill as a gift. The other two jars? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Tomorrow I’ll give you Bill’s recipe for ricotta cheesecake, and we’ll follow it and see how it turns out.