Monday, January 23, 2017

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Gift Fruit

One of the questions we hear occasionally at Florida Fruit Shippers goes like this: “Hey, I can get plenty of oranges at the grocery store. Why should I pay more for yours?” (The person who asks this question often looks a little sheepish, but also a bit defiant!)

No worries--we don’t mind this question. It’s natural to wonder what you’re “paying for” when you shop for gift oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit. So, why should you buy fruit from FFS instead of the store? Here are 10 great reasons.

1. Our fruit is absolutely, 100% unconditionally guaranteed.
Don’t you just hate it when you bring home some beautiful-looking fruit from the store that turn out be dry, mealy, flavorless, or just plain funny-tasting? Ugh. That’s not going to be a problem with us. We’re so sure that you’ll love our fresh, perfect, juicy fruit, and that every one will be just right, that we offer an unconditional guarantee. Can your local supermarket or fruit stand say the same?

2. Honeybells, honeybells, honeybells.
Have you tried a honeybell yet? No, really--have you? Go on, go get one. We’ll wait here. Oh, wait--you probably can’t find one. Honeybells are super tough to track down in stores. In fact, if it weren’t for us and our fellow fruit shippers, most Americans would never have a chance to enjoy these absolutely luscious, seedless, super-sweet and juicy fruits. People wait all year for these...and we’ve got ‘em.

3. Find out what it's like to live Floridian.
Okay, we can’t ship our beautiful beaches or “75 degrees in January” in one of our boxes. But when you buy from us, you get the chance to enjoy an incredible variety of citrus (not just navels and grapefruit) at their peak of flavor. If you live here (and most of you don’t), you might be able to find fruit kind of like this if you went out of your way to a farmers’ market or grove stand...but that takes time and effort.

4. You can buy OUR oranges (and ship them to your Aunt Linda) in your underwear.
When you shop online, the “store” is never closed. Plus, you have all the time you need (or don’t need--maybe you’ll be done in 5 minutes!) to make your selections and do your research. To be honest with you, when I have to actually go to a store these days I feel a bit lost without the extra information, in-depth personal reviews, and price comparison I can find online.

5. You’re getting the cream of the crop.
Ever strolled into the grocery store, rolled up to the fruit aisle, and wondered what bedraggled cat dragged in that day’s selection? I know you have. That isn’t going to be a problem when you order from us. To “make it” as a FFS orange, grapefruit, or tangerine, you’ve got to be #1 grade--the best of the best. We sort the fruit in the field, and what doesn’t look top of the line is not going to make it into your fruit box. Period.

6. You’re supporting a family business.
Here at FFS, we’ve been in the citrus business for more than 30 years--since 1983. We started off as a small fruit and vegetable stand in Gulfport, FL. We’ve grown a lot since then. But since the beginning, owner Rick Delgreco and family have been here, standing by our products.

7. We’re not just fruit.
Sure, you can buy oranges at the grocery store. But can you get a beautiful basket of top-quality, hand-selected oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit, topped off with chocolate-covered coconut patties, chocolate amaretto pecans. orange blossom honey, or specialty orange marmalade? Nope. (Want to add a Key lime or chocolate Bundt cake? Lots of people do.)

8. We’re the foodie choice.
Don’t settle for the generic fruit at the store when you can explore all the unique and different options we have to offer...and please your foodie, gourmet friends! Ever tried an ortanique? What about a tangelo? Both are delicious--and hard to find elsewhere.

9. It looks a lot better delivered from us than it does in that grocery store baggie.
So you want to give healthy, nutritious, delicious fresh oranges as a gift? Perfect choice. But presentation counts--are we right? Unless you feel like running around town picking up this and that and figuring out how to ship and deliver it, you’re going to want to buy from us instead. Not only is the fruit delicious--it’s gorgeous.

10. Grown, packaged, and shipped in the United States
Florida has been the queen of citrus for generations--but in recent years, fruit from other countries has started to enter the market. When you buy citrus from us, you know you’re purchasing fruit grown in the United States, and that laws protecting workers and the environment have been followed. You’re keeping your dollars here.

So...have we convinced you yet? We thought so. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Make Your Own Orange Vodka and Orange Liqueur

Citrus is an absolutely amazing food, with an incredible wealth of uses. We’ve already covered how great citrus is in savory dishes, desserts, and cookies, and how even citrus peel is incredibly valuable for all kinds of DIY projects. But here’s one we haven’t yet tackled: making orange vodkas and liqueur!

This project is so easy a 10-year-old could do it (though we don’t recommend that, for obvious reasons) and mostly just involves doing absolutely nothing. Yet the end result is a subtle, gourmet ingredient that any mixologist or home bartender would be proud to have in his or her liquor cabinet. Let’s see how it works.

Your ingredients are delightfully simple: two flavorful oranges (or tangerines), two cups of vodka (mid-range is just fine), a large jar, and two navel oranges. (Later, you’ll need sugar, but that’s not for a while yet.)

First, wash your oranges (you may want to scrub them a little if they look dirty at all, since they’re going in peel and all) and slice them about ½ inch thick. If your fruit has seeds, pick them out.

Now place your orange slices in the jar, cover with vodka, and screw on the top. Give it a few shakes.

Your next job is to let this little orange-and-vodka concoction sit at room temperature for at least a week and preferably two to three. (It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.) You can shake the jar occasionally if you like. Here are my oranges and vodka after about 2 weeks. As you can see, the oranges have released some of their essence into the alcohol.

Once you think you’re ready to move on to the next step, strain the big orange slices out over a bowl, using a fine colander. Discard the oranges. (Honestly, there’s probably something you can do with these boozy bits, but I wasn’t sure what!)

Now get a paper coffee filter or a paper towel and place it over your colander. Slowly pour the vodka through, stopping to wait for it to drain and changing the filter paper if it starts to tear. Your goal at this point is to filter out the small orange pieces so you have a clear, orange-flavored vodka with no “stuff in it.”

This is your orange vodka. If you want, you can stop here, and use this in any number of cocktail recipes, from an Orange Breeze Martini to this “Florida Mule”, as well as any recipe calling for vodka where orange would harmonize.

However, I wanted to make orange liqueur, a.k.a. Grand Marnier/triple sec/curacao, used in popular drinks like Cosmopolitans, margaritas, and Long Island Iced tea, along with a host of others. To make this liquor cabinet staple from your orange vodka, there’s just one more step! (Two, if you count cooling time.) Combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.

When this mixture is cool, add it to your orange vodka. (That’s a 2 to 1 ratio of vodka to syrup, in case you started with different amounts.) Now you have orange liqueur! I find mine to be fragrant, sweet, and light, with (of course) a completely natural taste. It’s pretty special.

Note that this is not the only way to make an orange liqueur. This recipe uses just the orange peel (no fruit) and is based on brandy. This one incorporates dried bitter orange peel, cloves, and brandy, along with fresh orange zest. And let’s not forget the intriguing recipes out there for orangecello and vin d’orange. All these projects are pretty quick and easy! Frankly, if you have a lot of fruit on hand, you could have a session where you start all these brewing and get it done in no time.

Once your liquors are ready, they will keep for at least 6 months, probably more. These concoctions make wonderfully different gifts for those on your list who enjoy cocktails—you can even put them up into small “nips” bottles. Package with a cute ribbon and label.

Of course, maybe this whole blog has made you thirsty for a citrus cocktail, but you don’t want to wait. If so, check out our previous article: 7 Citrus Cocktails and 4 Nonalcoholic Citrus Mocktails You Need to Try. Cheers!

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