Satsuma Season

A mature satsuma tree can survive down to −9 °C (15 °F) or even −11 °C (12 °F) for a few hours. Of the edible citrus varieties, only the kumquat is more cold-hardy. Satsumas rarely have any thorns; the fruit is exceedingly sweet, easy to peel, and many cultivars are seedless.

The Louisiana crop ripens from October until late November. The name “satsuma” is credited to the wife of a U.S. Minister to Japan, General Van Valkenburg, who sent trees home in 1878 from Satsuma, the name of a former province, now Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island.

Its fruit is one of the sweetest citrus varieties. The satsuma also has particularly delicate flesh, which cannot withstand the effects of careless handling, which means you’ll find them only in local grocers or roadside produce stands.

Satsumas are used very much as oranges in desserts, even entrees and salads, but if you’re feeling really froggy, here’s a particularly ambitious recipe from Louisiana Cookin’.

Satsuma Upside-Down Cake

3¾ cups sugar, divided
4 cups water
24 (¼-inch-thick) sliced satsumas
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon satsuma zest
½ cup fresh satsuma juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper, and prep with baking spray with flour. Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar in bottom of pan.

In a large skillet, stir together 1½ cups sugar and 4 cups water. Add satsuma slices, bring to a boil, then turn off heat. After 15 minutes, remove fruit with a slotted spoon, and place on a wire rack to drain. Reserve the syrup. After 30 minutes or so, place slices in prepared pan, overlapping slightly.

In a large bowl, beat butter and remaining 2 cups sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; in a small bowl, whisk together milk, zest, and juice. Gradually blend flour and butter mixtures alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour, beating just until combined after each addition.

Gently spoon batter over satsuma slices, cover with foil, and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife, invert cake onto a serving plate, and remove parchment paper. Drizzle with ¼ cup syrup before serving.