“This tastes like sour orange,” my husband tells me as he sips his drink, the newly invented spiced sour orange cider.
The drink didn’t start that way, but the more I sip it, the more I agree — and the more I can get behind a sour orange holiday. Plus, I like how “spiced sour orange cider” sounds.
I’m a fan of Chef Justin at Fresh from Florida, although I have real concerns about what “Fresh from Florida” means for life in the Everglades. I’ve tried several of his recipes, and without fail I enjoy them quite a bit.
When he sent a Thanksgiving email, in it he included a recipe for Florida Orange-Cinnamon Cider, and I tucked it aside until I had a free afternoon.
Today I had that free afternoon, although making spiced sour orange cider took all of 10 minutes. I adapted it because it didn’t smell or look the way I wanted it to look or smell, and my results are likely different than what he intended, but I’m happy, and if you like sour orange things, I think you will be, too. With apologies to Chef Justin…
Spiced Sour Orange Cider Ingredients
4 cups (Florida) orange juice (I used Uncle Matt’s; please do not use Minute Maid or Tropicana — and here’s why)
4 cups apple cider (I used Trader Joe’s)
2 (Florida) oranges, sliced (I used Valencia because they’re juicy)
1/4 c. black mangrove honey
1 lemon, sliced thin
2-5 sticks cinnamon
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
16-20 whole cloves
Dried and sweetened orange slices
Optional: Bacardi 151
Bring everything but rum and honey to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes
Add honey; stir
Serve in glasses
Add one shot rum (optional) to each drink
Garnish with orange slices
After the first few sips, put garnish in drink to mellow tartness at the end
Did you make spiced sour orange cider? Tell me what you thought; I love to hear from readers! Happy whatever makes you happy this season!
As much as I write about it, talk about it, and eat it, I never have written down my recipe for Sour Orange Pie.
Full disclosure: I modified this one from Authentic Florida. If you find yourself with an abundance of sour oranges, go ahead and try them both. Let me know which one you prefer!
Some recipes out there suggest using saltines in the crust. Don’t use a saltine crust. That’s an abomination! Also, you need something a little more sugary to cut the tart in this sour orange pie recipe.
I’m not a food blogger, so I’ll give you my recipe first and then if you want to keep reading, you can. But if you’re here for the Sour Orange Pie recipe, fear not: I won’t make you scroll!
Graham Cracker Crust
This is not negotiable. I make mine with two-ingredients: butter and graham cracker crumbs.
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have celiac so I get gluten-free ones, but don’t do that to yourself if you don’t have to)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4-1/2 c. sugar (honestly, I don’t always add sugar and think it tastes just fine, but apparently most people like the sugar. Go figure.)
If baking the crust* (I do): Preheat oven to 375º
Mix everything together and press into a pie plate.
Bake for 5-6 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Fill with, well, filling.
Sour Orange Pie Filling
4 Seville** oranges (sour oranges)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Zest the oranges and set aside about 1 tsp. zest
Juice the oranges, taking care to remove seeds
Mix the juice, yolks, sugar, milk, and all but that 1 tsp. zest together until completely blended
Pour in pie crust
Garnish with zest
Freeze until firm
Notes on the Sour Orange Pie Recipe
*Because this is a freezer pie, you can simply freeze the crust when you freeze the pie. I bake my crust because I think it holds together better, but remember, I have to use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs. Graham crackers with actual gluten in them will hold together much better, so freezing may work for you!
**True sour oranges, called Seville oranges, are truly hard to find anymore. For the first 500 years Europe had any oranges at all, though, it only had Sevilles. Seville oranges were also the first oranges to make it to the North American continent. Today, your best bet for finding them is a tree in someone’s yard or stumbling across one on a hike (that’s how I first tasted them.) If you have a tree in your yard that produces crappy oranges, do not think you have a Seville orange tree. This state park used to have one growing wild near the cabins, but I’m not sure it’s still there.
In its truest form, the Seville orange looks like a giant, bumpy, orange, lemon. If you hold it to your nose for a sniff, you might think it’s a lemon. People will actually insist it is a lemon; it is not. If you find one of these trees, please tell me where you found it and send me the seeds!
Some people like to top this pie with meringue; I’m not one of those people. But please, feel free to do that if that’s your thing, but before you pop it in the oven to brown the meringue, make sure that filling’s really frozen hard. Another option? Whipped cream. I don’t do that, either, but I’m a purist. No judgment if you want to add whipped cream!
Sour Orange Substitutions
If you can’t find sour oranges, you have two choices: use the Authentic Florida recipe I mentioned above, or buy the Badia “Naranja Agria” juice. You can usually find it in the Spanish section of what most grocers call the “ethnic foods” aisle. Be careful you don’t accidentally grab the mojo bottle. They both have orange in them, they look almost identical, and they usually get stocked next to one another. The mojo, however, has garlic and onion and other things that taste great with pork, but not in a pie!
Sour Orange Juice: Other Uses
Oh, and if you find yourself with leftover sour oranges, you can always try my sour orange margarita. Because when life gives you sour oranges, make margaritas!
The first time I traveled to the Florida Keys, I was 19 and it was a school field trip. The moment US 1 opened up onto the teal water – there’s a high and dry there now, so you can’t see the water as soon – I felt like everything, for the first time, made sense. A few years later, I married a man who was not right for me when I was far too young to do so. He hated the Keys. He promised me a trip there every year and it was only the last year of our marriage that we made it there. He was miserable and even told me, “I think we just want different things out of life.”
Months after we separated, the first thing I did was point my purple Toyota south towards the Keys, with my kayak on top of my car and my bike inside it. I paddled and biked and breathed the salt air and promised myself I’d never go a year again without visiting the Florida Keys.
Since then, except for one year when Hurricane Irma made traveling there impossible, I’ve done that – often more than once. So far this year, I’ve visited twice. Do I want to live there? Probably not. But I cherish the time I spend there. Want some travel tips that take you beyond the typical tourist experience? I can’t promise to show you the Keys like a local, but I can tell you about some places to see, things to do, and restaurants to try that take you beyond the typical Florida Keys experience. Here are my top 10 things most people never do in the Florida Keys:
10. Take the Card Sound Bridge in to the Keys. Bonus points if you’ve read Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen and know why I mention this book.
9. Stop at Alabama Jacks on the Card Sound Bridge. Think it’s a dive bar? I won’t argue. But before you slide into the Florida Keys, nothing beats stopping here for a cold drink or a burger on the water. You’re still in the Everglades and also in the Florida Keys.
8. Buy seafood at Key Largo Fisheries. I have friends who live a few islands down – and they drive up here for seafood. It’s a seafood market that has a cafe, so even if you’re not sleeping somewhere with a kitchen or grill, you can still get a taste.
7. Play Tron at Bayside Gourmet. I don’t know how I missed this place except I just didn’t notice it until a local suggested I grab lunch there. It’s a Gen X kid’s dream, and the food’s good, too. (And I believe the games have free play.)
6. Take advantage of the ranger-led activities in a state park. On our last visit, we had a free guided tour of the waters and mangrove tunnels around Curry Hammock State Park. Every state park – Pennekamp, Windley Key, Long Key, Curry Hammock, and Bahia Honda come to mind immediately, but there are many others in the Keys – has rangers available for questions, and most (if not all) have free hikes, talks, or paddles with those rangers. No one knows the outdoors in the Florida Keys better than the state park rangers; take advantage of this.
5. Eat at El Siboney on Stock Island. Yes, yes, there’s one in Key West. Don’t bother with the crowds; the last time I ate at the Stock Island restaurant, I believe my group were the only tourists in the building. It’s delicious.
4. Get your groceries somewhere other than Publix. Yes, I know it’s the place where shopping is a pleasure, but the Florida Keys is one of the few places that actually has some decent grocery stores (not supermarkets!). Try the family-owned Trading Post in Islamorada, Marathon Liquor and Deli in Marathon, and, of course, Fausto’s in Key West.
3. Try the cole slaw at Geiger Key Marina. I’m obsessed with the stuff, and I’m not exactly a huge cole slaw fan. I’m not sure what, exactly, they use to make it, but I’m doing my best to replicate it back home.
2. Hike at Curry Hammock State Park. The hike isn’t in the part of the park most people use – it’s a short walk off a small parking area off US 1 maybe a mile south of the park’s entrance on the bay side. It’s relatively short – something like 1.5 miles – but it goes over some uneven terrain. The reward is your private vista of the water.
1. Paddle to Indian Key – and then take in its history. This island is easily seen from US 1 near Robbie’s, but the times I’ve paddled out there, I’ve seen precious few people. Perhaps they don’t realize this tiny island has quite a history: At one time, it was the Dade County seat. It’s a ghost town now (and a state park) and, if you’re into snorkeling, word has it there’s some pretty good snorkeling on the far side of the island.
No doubt, I’ve missed a lot – as I’ve said, I’m not local, and I know I’ll have more in future posts. Hopefully, if you’re here and you’ve read my stuff for a while, these aren’t all new to you. And hey, if you have a place you think I’d love down there (or anywhere in Florida), drop me a note and tell me about it!