Thursday, March 8, 2012
How to Segment an Orange
I decided to do a photographic walk-through of the process, because although the process of segmenting an orange is not difficult, it might be confusing if you have not done it before. It will require some knife skills, and a good degree of caution in execution, but I have never cut myself doing this (and I've cut myself doing a lot of things!).
I'm using cara cara oranges in these photos, which is why the flesh of the orange is actually pink. This technique will work on any variety of orange, and can be used on other citrus fruits (for example, grapefruit).
A technical note: the correct culinary term for this technique (and the resulting slices) is "supreme". That's a French word, so it's pronounced sue-prHem (not like Diana Ross and The Supremes). Common use seems to treat supreme and segment interchangeably. Now that you're fully armed with that knowledge, let's slice some oranges!
How to Segment an Orange: Step-by-Step
A sharp knife - I use a 7 inch chef's knife; I suggest a medium size blade for this task (no paring knives, no machetes)
A cutting board
1. Rinse your orange (or oranges). (If your recipe calls for the zest of the fruit, zest the oranges now. I use a microplane grater, and it works really well for this task.)
3. Run your knife down the orange between the pith and the flesh, cutting strips of pith away from the orange. I keep my knife at the same location and rotate the orange each time I remove a strip of pith.
4. Check the sides and bottom of the orange, and trim away any pith left behind.
5. Holding the peeled orange in the palm of your hand over a bowl, locate the white membranes separating the orange segments. (Depending on the variety of orange you are using, these may be easy or difficult to see; these cara caras have a fairly fine membrane.) Hold the edge of your knife parallel to the membrane. Carefully slide your knife towards the center of the orange along the right hand side of the membrane, then cut on the left-hand side of the next membrane, moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Your knife will move at a slight diagonal, cutting a wedge-shaped segment. Let the segment fall into the bowl, then cut on the right side of the next membrane, repeating the process all the way around the orange. (This part sounds tricky, but just work left to right, cutting on both sides of each membrane; it should seem clear when you're holding the orange in your hand.)
6. As you finish with segments, you can use your thumb to hold the membranes aside so you can see what you're working with (like turning the pages of a book). Always grip the orange gently, so you don't squeeze all the juice out (although some will come out, that's why you're cutting over a bowl).
7. Now you've removed all of the segments! Congratulations! See, that wasn't so bad. If your recipe calls for it, or if you like, squeeze the membrane left in your hand over a bowl to collect the remaining juice (it makes a great addition to a dressing). Repeat this process for however many oranges you would like to segment. It gets quite easy with practice.
If you're itching for a recipe to try out your new orange segmenting skills with, I'll be posting one soon!