The citrus groves at Uncle Matt’s

tangelo grove

You know…

I love groves and orchards and trees and berry bushes.

I love forests.

I get it from my father who secretly wishes he lived in a box-like cabin in the middle of a forest. A rainy, autumn-like forest, suits him best. And you know, it all stems from our upbringing. If you have ever been to the Basque Country you will know the moody and saturated colors due to rain. Xirimiri, we call it. The non-stop light drizzle of rain and fog days on end. I always loved it and I miss it now. It is very obvious how much I miss that xirimiri. I certainly found it here.

A reader sent me a kind email a few days ago and in her words… “it’s very clear to me that you have a close relationship to nature and plants”, she said. It struck me that she was able to sense it from this blog. “I do, don’t I?”, I replied and then I smiled. And I know that you must think I live surrounded by a gigantic garden and tree-lined streets by looking at all the photos of produce I share here. Well, not quite. Certainly not groves and orchards or forests that I dream about. I have to travel to get my fix.

So at the beginning of the new year, we packed the car and drove three hours away to visit Uncle Matt’s – one of the very few organic citrus groves left in Florida. Remember when we visited last year?

It was a damp and cold winter day, just what I had been longing for. Those days are a rare treat in Florida and a nice contrast to the warmth and golden-toned light we are surrounded with all year-round. We packed our rain gear and headed north to Clermont for an afternoon with the McLeans.

Mr. McLean Sr (I think I can call him Benny now) and Matt welcomed us with open arms and took that Friday afternoon off to spend time with us and show us around the different groves. Matt’s wife Susan and their two little girls joined us as we picked different varieties from the trees. The children listened to Benny as he explained the proper way to pick the fruit without damaging the tree, what to look for and how to taste and smell it. They loved slurping the grapefruit juice from a tiny cavity that Benny carved in. They looked up to him with admiration. He is gentle, funny and passionate about his citrus. He exudes this air of Southern tradition and hospitality that is very engaging.

We sampled orange and red navels, grapefruits, honeybells, which weren’t quite ready yet, tangelos, and my favorite… the pommelos.

Have you ever tasted a pommelo? It looks like a very large grapefruit with thick skin. The flesh is very pale pink, but unlike the grapefruit, not too sour. In fact, I find that it is the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It can be quite difficult to find it at the markets around here so I was really excited to pick some once again. My mom was also blown away by their size, amount of juice and taste. We couldn’t stop eating them.

Roasted beet, fennel, pommelo and orange salad

The children ran in the mud, indulged in citrus and hid behind the trees.

The perfect-lined rows of tangelo trees simply made my day.

Oh and the peach trees were already blooming, ready for ripe fruit in the Spring.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Raspberry, pommelo and corn cake

We returned home with bags and bags of all kind of citrus.

We enjoyed freshly-squeezed juice everyday and colorful salads with citrus. Like this roasted beet, fennel, pommelo and orange navel salad with a simple vinaigrette of pommelo juice, champagne vinegar and a little bit of pistachio oil. I don’t even have a recipe, just tossed it all together.

I made an orange and chocolate marble pound cake (not photographed here) with oat and almond flour. It was very delicious and I will share the recipe soon.

And then, I adapted this raspberry, pommelo and corn cake from the latest issue of Elle à Table – a mixture between cornbread and cake. We loved it after lunch and for breakfast the next day. I hope you will try it.

Thank you the McLean family once again for inspiring us to live and eat more consciously.

We will be eternally grateful.

Pommelo, raspberry and corn cake

adapted from Jan 2013 issue of Elle à Table

makes a 9 by 4-inch loaf pan and a 6-inch cake pan

Note about the pans. This is a very airy cake batter and because there is no gluten, I try to bake it in small and narrow pans. If you are to bake it in a larger cake pan, make sure that you don’t pour all the batter in. I think 3-inch high is the tallest I would go or the cake might sink in the middle. This is a crumbly cake so don’t fret!

16 tablespoons (225 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 gg) natural cane sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated pommelo or grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) pommelo or grapefuit juice
1 1/2 cups (200 g) corn flour
1 cup (100 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces (225 g) raspberries

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Oil the inside of the loaf and cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment.

Melt the butter over medium heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Combine the sugar and pommelo zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Rub them between your fingers to release the natural oils from the zest (this will make it very fragrant). Add the orange flower water and eggs and whip the mixture over high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add the juice and mix.

In the meantime, whisk the corn flour, cornstarch, baking powder, chia and salt in a bowl. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture trying not to deflate the mixture too much. Fold in the cooled butter until it becomes a homogenous batter. Divide the raspberries on the bottom of the pans and pour the batter on top.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then inverted onto a cooling rack.

For the glaze:

I simply mixed together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, vanilla bean and a few teaspoons of pommelo juice until thick but pourable.


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68 Responses to “The citrus groves at Uncle Matt’s”

  1. Pure beauty, Aran! I would love to find that kind of orchard close to Montreal! (oh well, we have hipsters in the Mile End! ;))

    • Aran says:

      You have hispters indeed! And also apple orchards and lots of berries and amazing markets in the summer (which don’t exist in Florida in the summer). Bt above all, hipster Christelle. Muchos muchos. jejeje… besos!!!

  2. Megan says:

    So lovely, Aran! I have never been to a citrus grove, but it looks so magical in your photos. The cake sounds wonderful, I will be sure to try as soon as I find some pommelos. Also, your little ones are precious! Hope all is well, xo.

    • Aran says:

      Thank you Megan. I think you pretty much have to be in Florida or California to enjoy citrus in this country no? Is it grown in other states? Now I’m curious. Regardless, you should visit. The smell is unbelievable and we weren’t even there when the trees were blooming (the citrus trees). I hear it’s insane how the groves smell when the fruit is ripe and the flowers bloom. And I think it’s happening this month!

  3. Melissa says:

    Magical. I love the light you captured in these photos Aran. Everything is just beautiful as always. Good luck with the packing!

  4. Cheryl says:

    Wonderful photos of an obviously spectacular day! I’ve never heard of “honeybells”. Is it like a small tangerine or orange? Sounds sweet and delicious. After visiting this post, I REALLY want to visit somewhere like this. It looks like SOOOO much fun! But, I would NEVER want to leave. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful day!

    • Aran says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      Honeybells have a distinct flavor. Sweet like an orange. They are shaped kind of like a bell, elongated with a tip. I included some photos in this post. Thank you!

  5. Elisa says:

    this cake looks wonderful! So lightly pink and yellow, it just whispers ” spring” to me… waiting anxiously for this season!
    Can I question you, what kind of corn flour did you use here? because usually the corn flour I buy tends to yield a quite gritty texture, but that doesn’t seem the case… is it superfine flour of some sort?
    beside, the salad and pound cake sound delicious too, the perfect balance of flavour and colours; I could eat fennel and citrus salads all winter round!
    … and, to be honest, I too was amazed at the abundance of photos of nature and lush trees and wide and damp valleys here; it did make a huge contrast with all that I know about florida… but, surely, your upbringing explains it plainly! Curiously, I think you can find the same kind of xirimiri – if I understood rightly the word – in very hot, but very dry climates like our italian climate: in the summer, the arid and wide landscape seems to burst with colours, forms and textures, so transparent and perfect it is the air. Maybe, in the future, that would be the image of summer that I would cherish the most.

    • Aran says:

      Hi Elisa,

      The recipe in Elle called for polenta but I know that the kind of polenta or cornmeal we have here is gritty, so I went for cornflour which is a bit finer. The cake is still crumbly and a bit gritty but not overwhelmingly.

      Rain saturates color and just adds this contrast that I love. The Basque Country is very moody, particularly between November and March (but can go well into May). I feel that is when I most appreciated sunshine, after those winters with rain and fog. Now I just have an overload of sun and glare :)

      • Elisa says:

        ahaha, I can well imagine that you are a bit sick of sunshine in florida! But i think that dry climates ( at least in the summer! ) make a lot to let us appreciate more the overwhelming heat of the season!
        Thank you for the answer about the cornflour, I will try and find it.

  6. Georgina says:

    Your photos are beautiful – and make me want to jump on a plane and visit Florida right this instant. Your winters are such a contrast to our blistery cold ones up in Canada’s North … I would look forward to winter to if it was like this; so lovely and full of life. Thanks for sharing this corn cake recipe – it looks easily adaptable since I don’t believe I will be able to find Pommelos in our grocery stores (a shame, as I had tried them before on a trip to Florida during February a few years ago). Thanks for sharing some many delicious gluten free recipes!

    • Aran says:

      Georgina,

      I was in Montreal recently and I loved it. I loved the snow, the cold… granted, I didn’t have to shovel or scrape my car, but I do love winter. I love seasons period :)

      Thank you.

  7. nadia says:

    beautiful, something about the rain making everything so richer, how i would like to visit an orange orchard and have little miren & jon there!

  8. nadia says:

    really? i can come down and help you pack:)!!

  9. Although the weather here in Nor. California is not quite so warm and sunny as it is in FL, I know just how you feel. We sometimes go for months without rain, and when it finally does come, it is so refreshing and beautiful. Absolutely lovely photography, as always.

    • Aran says:

      Dawn,

      I love Northern California too especially alongside the OR border. I spent two summers there as an exchange student in my early teens and I fell in love with the area. My husband is also from Redding so we feel a special connection to Northern Cali.

      Thank you!

  10. Sanda says:

    I want to find some farm like that here, I am qite sure it exist somewhere. So pretty Aran!!

  11. Dena says:

    Lovely, Aran. It is so cold here in New England now. I crave light and warmth and just today was regretting that we do not have a warm weather vacation planned for the school break this month. Then your post came along to magically transport me to Florida. I love the adventures and the connections you make through food and with your children. I can smell the fragrance of the trees in the orchard as I look at your photos. While this cake looks awesome, I am equally drawn to the salad you show: so full of color, flavor and texture! And the photo of the squeezed fruits is delightful. AAH. You have given me the warm weather vacation I crave. Well done! I can go on now. Thank you. D

  12. Beautiful photography, the orchards look stunning…citrus fruits are some of my favourite, I will be trying your salad recipe…thank you for sharing …xv

  13. Sara B. says:

    I lived in southern California for two years and I missed the rain so much. When I moved back to the east coast, the first week we had with rainy, cloudy weather made me so happy.

    Though I do miss easy access to fresh, local citrus. The DC area isn’t really known for its citrus groves.

  14. Citrus groves are so fragrant when in bloom!

  15. Elli says:

    Ehi, che meraviglia questi agrumeti! Noi viviamo in Sicilia, la patria degli grumi italiani e mangiamo arance e mandarini organic di un orto qui vicino. Lo sapevi che l’insalata di arance e finocchi l’hanno inventata qui, a Palermo? Noi ci mettiamo anche cipolline, olive nere ed un poco di aringhe!
    Le tue foto sono bellissime, come anche il tuo blog!
    Ciao dall’Italia
    Elli

  16. Shan says:

    Hey looks great, could I use normal flour instead of the corn?
    Keep up the good work :) !

    • Aran says:

      I think you could although it will probably be a bit denser, but make sure to make adjustments using weigh amounts not volume because all these flours have different densities. Thank you!

  17. I really love the look of that cake- so bright and cheerful! Maybe I’m drawn by the pink… Looks like a wonderful day. I’m an autumn forest type person too. :)

  18. Shelby says:

    What a truly charming post.. so enriching and full of honesty, character and inspiration. I am from Florida but I’ve never been to that beautiful farm.. It is certainly on my list for places to see and experience.. Thank you!

  19. Looks delicious! But how do you use the 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice after the eggs?

  20. Iratxe says:

    Qué hermosura de siembra Aran, menudas naranjas, qué maravilla poder disfrutar de un día de campo y todo lo que ofrece, deliciosos frutos, la tierra toda para recreo de los peques y el xirimiri… No cabe duda que tu relación con la naturaleza es estrecha y hermosa, no hay más que ver tus fotos y tus recetas, ¡todo inspiración para mi!. El pomelo no es de mis frutas favoritas, tengo que confesar es un sabor que me cuesta un poco pero las naranjas y las mandarinas, me fascinan. Deliciosas recetas, la ensalada me ha encantado, esa vinagreta de pomelo sounds good! y tomo nota del cake ;D. Un besote,

    http://www.cocinaamiga.com

  21. I so want to come to your food photography getaways/classes sooo badly. I’m in dire need of help! I just got my first ‘real’ camera and am still in the process of learning how to use it. Let’s just say my food pictures aren’t great. :( I just LOVE this blog, your writing, and your pictures. Fabulous!!!

  22. Tasha says:

    Lovely pictures of a lovely trip! Pommelo’s are my favorite citrus fruit – so hard to find, but we do get them here in Toronto when they are in season (I’m not sure where they are grown though). Can’t wait until the Makerie – I signed up for both your workshop days!

  23. It’s funny, being born and raised in sunny California and hating my 18 months living in Ireland because of the constant fog and drizzle, I still really enjoy the occasional day like this. The photos that you took of the orchards just seem so magical. I was lucky enough to visit one of my local citrus farms in December and to photograph it but it was on a super sunny day and I wasn’t super excited about the photos. When I saw your photos in the fog and mist I must admit I was a bit envious! I’m very much looking forward to making the pommelo cake.

    • Aran says:

      I think it’s all about balance and variety right? The Basque Country has similar weather to Ireland. Perhaps a bit more sunshine but it has the fog and rain I remember from my time in Dublin. Too much sun is never good for photography. Thank you!

  24. Itxaso says:

    Ze ederrak koloreak!! Zelako kontrastea, berde ilune eta naranja bizie, ze polite! Ganera naranjak gustetan jataz pilo bat, imajinetan dot ze dultze egongo diren mmmmm! Oso oso polite post-a.
    Ikusiot bazoaziela Seattlera be. Oin jaleo handie izingo da baia apurke-apurke hasiko zarie disfrutetan. Enbidie emoten dostezu, Indianakoa amaitute gero ia gu be norantza goazen.
    Lasai hartu eta besarkada bat!

    • Aran says:

      Itxaso!

      Bai bagoaz Seattlerantza. Bueno asmoa hori da baina momentuz ez dekogu ez etxerik, ez eskolarik, ez zelan joango garen…. Ikusiku. Eta zuek noz arte Indianan ba?

  25. Itxaso says:

    Printzipioz urtebete t’erdi falta jako amaitako Colineri baia holako gauzek askotan atzeratu iten direnez igual urte bi be izingo dire. Momentuz hemen ondo, baia betirako ez jakun gustauko geratutea. Zuek be astiro baia topaukozuez eskolea ta etxea ta danak. Gurasoak ondino hor dekozuz? Gorantziek nire partez!

  26. Olga says:

    Hello Aran!

    I love this post. Yep, this is what Florida looks like on most sunless winter days. Misty. Moody. This type of weather makes me happy though. It reminds me of damp Siberian forests that are constantly drizzled on.
    I am originally from Russia. I’ve lived in South Florida for 9 years, but still can’t get over its weather limitations. Year after year they become more and more pronounced.:-(
    I was about to give up on the Sunshine State until I came across your post. I didn’t even know places like Uncle Matt’s still existed in Florida. I am totally taking my 5-year-old daughter there one of these weekends. Did you do a guided tour? Do I have to set it up in advance or do they welcome drive-ups? :-)
    Your post was very invigorating to me on so many levels. Thank you.

    • Aran says:

      Hi Olga,

      I totally understand the sentiment. The weather limitations have also become too much for us to bare. I need seasons and variety. I am not sure if they do guided tours at Uncle Matt’s. They are friends and that is why we visited, but perhaps they do group tours? Might be worth calling them or emailing them.

      Thank you!

  27. Hi Aran!
    Absolutely beautiful – photos and food.

  28. debjani says:

    We need trees, our children needs them more. And if we teach them to love and appreciate the green gentle life form we have sown enough seeds for the rest of the million year.
    Your work is beautiful Aran. You love is very clear and profound. Sometimes we get pleasure from what others have – like your visit to the farm and the corn cake that celebrates it.

  29. Tonya says:

    I love how you show a totally different side to my home state! I love these photos and that recipe…oh yes, I will need to be trying that soon!

    I love your work and am so so soooo excited to meet (and learn from) you in Tuscany! Thanks so much for finding a place for me :)
    Sincerely,
    Tonya

  30. The orchard looks amazing! I can just imagine how great it smells. :) I used to spend my childhood on a mango tree farm and I loved it so much.
    Oh and the peach blossoms are simply beautiful!

  31. […] from our day below. You can read about Aran’s experience and her recipes from the day here. And we encourage you to buy a copy of  her new book, Small Plates & Sweet […]

  32. María says:

    Aran soy valenciana y cuando he visto tus fotos con ésos enormes tangeolos me he quedado sin respiración. Son majestuosos!. Las fotos son de Orlando en la Península de Florida?.
    Enhorabuena. Tu blog es fantástico!

  33. Satsuki says:

    Hi Aran,
    I’ve found a delicous German salted butter.
    Do you think I could use it to make this cake?

  34. Logan says:

    I love this post! What is the recipe for the beet & pummello salad?

  35. Katie says:

    How stunning. I bet it was fragrant there too. I also adore fruit orchards, blossom and citrus groves…

  36. […] salade betterave fenouil pomelos x orange […]

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