I don’t know about you but I always thought bergamot was some kind of leaf associated with tea. In other words, Earl Grey.
But no. It turns out there is a bergamot tree which grows specifically in the area around Marmaris in south western Turkey and is part of the citrus family! Did you know that?
Today this is exactly the area where we are: it is so beautiful. Here we are, at the end of September, it is hot and just gorgeous. The scenery is spectacular. We are with old friends who own and run a sailing school in a bay just outside Marmaris which they discovered 20 years ago, deserted except for a shell of a building.
If you could see it today, you would just marvel for it is a thriving school for young would-be-sailors under the tutelage of Deniz and Derin, our friends’ grown-up children with parents Chris and Haluk firmly behind them. It represents a lot of hard work, determination and above all, immense vision.
Today at breakfast – a feast of a Turkish breakfast – one of the homemade jams was bergamot which had such an interesting taste that I had to ask Chris about it.
Oh, she said, we have three trees which produce these fruit all the time. So off we went to have a look and I have never in my life seen such bizarre fruits as these: huge and lugubrious-looking, wrinkled and reminiscent of those hangdog bulldogs with folds of skin overlapping and pendulous.
So now they are bright green but in a couple of months will turn lemon yellow. Tastewise they will apparently make you really pucker up!
I have never seen this fruit in Istanbul or indeed anywhere. The bergamot above were the ones Chris used last December to make this jam.
After conferring both with her and Şenol who helps out here, it seems that the procedure is not particularly difficult but a bit time-consuming as first the bitter taste has to be drawn out, something like salamura and early olives.
First of all, the yellow skin is grated away and all the uneven bumps eliminated. What you are after is the pith, the white between the skin and the inner juicy core. So you get to that level and peel it away in strips. Place in a pan, cover with cold water and leave to soak. The idea is that the bitterness will seep away. Change the water from time to time and continue like this for 3 days.
Then, for approximately 1 kilo of pith, place 7 cups of granulated sugar/1k 350g in a pan with 3½ cups/650g water. Stirring all the time, heat gently for 5 minutes until a syrup is produced. Then place the drained pith into this, bring to the boil – if there is any foam remove it – and cook for 22 minutes.
As the syrup darkens in colour and the foam decreases, add 1 tbsp citric acid/limontozu. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes and remove from the heat.And there you have it! Bergamot jam or Bergamut Reçeli!
I will have to try this myself in a couple of months’ time. I may even have to come back here, to the Bay of Gökova: what a fabulous location for a sailing school and marina, let alone for trees that produce the bergamot fruit!