Thanksgiving has whizzed by and the smells, tastes and sights of the season are beginning to infuse throughout homes across Ohio. Oranges, tangelos and grapefruits have always been a played vivid role in my Christmas memories. We found oranges in the toe of our stockings, in Grandma’s orange apricot balls (last Christmas edition) and in Christmas morning orange salad. One Christmas, Grandma even had us making a child’s worst craft nightmare — orange clove pomanders. They smelled great but if memory serves me correct, it was the most tedious and boring craft poking whole cloves to cover an entire orange!
The FFA plays a huge part in my Christmas citrus memories. I am not sure when The FFA began providing the logistics for December fruit delivery to Ohio. My Dad doesn’t remember selling fruit during his high school years in the 1950s. But by the 1970s our family excitedly waited for the Naval and Pink grapefruit to arrive shortly after Thanksgiving from the local FFA boys. Nothing could beat the taste of those sweet juicy Navels. By the 80s, fruit sales were in full swing when Paul remembers selling 112 cases and receiving a plaque as Top Citrus Salesman. Years later our own sons Jake and Luke joined in and our house was filled with cases of fruit waiting to be delivered during the holiday season. The sale hasn’t changed much over the years except now selections include add-ons such as strawberries, apples, cheese, nuts and even barbecue sauce.
More important than providing fruit for my Christmas memories is the significance of the fruit sales as a fundraiser. Melissa Bell of Ohio FFA states that the fruit sale is vital to chapters and the Ohio FFA. Chapters raise multiple thousands of dollars — one chapter even raised enough to build a greenhouse. Ohio FFA receives nearly $50,000 in rebates from fruit sales that help fund special state FFA projects, state officer projects and the State FFA Convention and awards program. One of their biggest suppliers is the Florida Farm Bureau. An interesting ag factoid is that Florida and California combine to produce 97% of orange production, with Arizona and Texas filling in the remaining 3%. Thanks this year to Northeastern and Fairbanks FFA for filling our Christmas citrus order.
Thanks to the FFA logistics Santa could always put an orange in my stocking for Christmas. Paul and I passed the tradition of putting oranges in our boys’ stockings. It never crossed our minds to the reason we did it, we just did. My parents both said as kids they didn’t have stockings at Christmas. They admitted they put oranges our stockings because they were healthy, plus they took up a lot of room so my parents didn’t have to put much else in the stockings.
Other friends of all ages responded in overwhelming numbers that the folklore and traditions about the Christmas orange were not known. Oranges were put in stockings primarily because they were inexpensive and took up a lot of room in the stocking. I am sure I appreciate that reason more as a parent then I did as a child. It will be interesting to see if the availability of year-round fruit will decrease the excitement to receiving a piece of fruit Christmas morning. Still without answers about the origins of the orange tradition, I hoped that Google could help me. Here is what I found.
In 16th century Britain, it became all the craze to build “orangeries” which were greenhouses where oranges were grown in pots. This being an expensive venture, oranges were primarily enjoyed by the wealthy. The poor enjoyed them only as a rare treat. Oranges were enjoyed during the 12 days of Christmas.
Another folktale tells a story of a man in Turkey that was so poor he didn’t have money for his three daughters’ dowries. St. Nick threw 3 bags of gold down the chimney, which landed in the three daughters’ stockings hanging by the fire to dry. The Christmas orange symbolizes the gold coins left in toe.
By the late 19th century, transportation made oranges more available nationwide during the Christmas season. During the Depression, oranges became a treasured commodity to children with stories of filling stockings with treasured fruit and nuts. Laura Ingalls Wilder even retells a story of receiving a Christmas orange in her stocking.
My favorite story of all is that the slices of the orange represent the ability to share what you have with others. It’s a great reminder that that giving and sharing can cost no more than that of an orange. Bottom line: Stock up on your citrus from the FFA, buy small stockings and have a citrus filled Christmas!
Christmas Citrus Salad
1 pink grapefruit, peeled
3 Navel oranges, peeled
2 tangelos, peeled
2-3 Tablespoon powdered sugar
½-1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/3 c cranberries
¼ c walnuts
Cut Citrus in half and then chop in bite sized pieces. Stir in powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve.
Five Spice Appetizer Meatballs Floridacitrus.org
1 slightly beaten egg white
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound lean ground beef
1-1/2 cups Florida Orange Juice*
3 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 medium red and/or green sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
*May substitute Florida Orange Juice from Concentrate
In a large bowl combine egg white, bread crumbs, five-spice powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add beef; mix well. Shape into 48 1-inch meatballs. Place in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until no pink remains in center of meatballs. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan stir together orange juice, honey, cornstarch, soy sauce and ginger. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Add sweet pepper and meatballs in saucepan; cook and stir until heated through. Keep warm in a fondue pot or chafing dish. Serve with toothpicks. Yield: Makes 48
Broiled Grapefruit marthastewart.com
1 blood orange
2 Pink grapefruits
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 250°. Wash and dry blood orange, then use a serrated knife to slice off four thin rounds. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with nonstick baking mat; dust with powdered sugar. Cook until completely dry flipping halfway through about 45 minutes. Let cool completely.
Heat broiler, with rack 6 inches from heat. Halve grapefruits; loosen segments from membranes with a knife, keeping halves intact. Broil until browned in spots on top 2-3 minutes. Top each half with a blood orange slice and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
Tangelo Pork Stir-Fry eatingwell.com
4 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into thin strips
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from tangelos in long strips. Cut the strips lengthwise into very thin pieces. Cut the tangelos in half and squeeze enough juice from them to get 1/2 cup.
Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in 2 teaspoons oil, then add pork and cook, stirring, until just cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan along with shallots, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper and the zest. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring constantly, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tangelo juice and soy sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute.
Whisk vinegar and cornstarch in a small bowl, then pour it into the pan along with the pork and its juices. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and bubbling and the pork is heated through, about 1 minute. Makes 4 servings: Nutrition Per serving : 222 Calories; 6 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 74 mg Cholesterol; 16 g Carbohydrates; 26 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 346 mg Sodium; 665 mg Potassium
Clove Orange Pomander
Wrap the ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, to divide the orange into quarters. Feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange. Tie a simple overhand knot to secure the ribbon in place.
Now start pressing cloves into your orange. If the skin is tough pre-poke holes with a wooden skewer. Fill in between the ribbon with cloves or make pretty patterns on your orange with cloves. Try making stars, hearts and more! Use a citrus scorer to increase the fragrance by removing strings of peel. Once you are finished, hang the clove orange on your tree by tying it on with the extra ribbon, and enjoy the spicy Christmas aroma!