Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oranger De Séville, Oranger Amer, Bigaradier - The Seville or Bigarade Oranges in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated June 2019

Seville Oranges

The Seville (Bigarade) orange in the kitchen.
The Seville orange arrived in Spain with the Moors, who crossed the straits from North Africa to Spain, 711 CE. They defeated the Visigoths whose intermixed cultures of Visigoths and Romans controlled Spain (Hispania) after the Romans armies had left; by 712 the Moors had conquered Seville (Isbiliah). The Moors had come to stay, and they brought vegetables, herbs, and fruits from home and those included the Seville orange
Orange trees in Seville
The Bigarade (Seville) orange in the kitchen.
There are a number of bitter oranges available, but most French chefs choose the Seville orange for sauces when they need an orange with a controllable and contrasting but not too bitter, taste. So, when a bitter orange sauce is on a French menu, it will, nine times out of ten, be the Seville Orange (also called the Bigarade orange). 
The orange's second name Bigarade comes from the Occitan language which competed with modern French for a single language to unite the country. Occitan is still spoken in parts of Frances, and its dialects are behind other local languages including Provencal and Nicoise.  According to, the word Bigarade comes from the Occitan word "bigarrar," which means to change, to add color. For more about French in the English kitchen click here: 
Sauce Bigarade
Sauce Bigarade is the sauce behind many bitter orange recipes and is always behind Canard a la Orange, duck in orange sauce.  Sauce Bigarade is simply made.  The recipe uses just the juice of the Seville orange, along with some of the natural cooking juices from the dish with which it will be served.  Some of the orange zest and or peel and a small amount of sugar may be added to control the taste. Sauce Bigarade is often associated with duck, but it is also used with other poultry, meat, and

Just as the Bigarade orange, the Seville orange is behind Dundee, Scottish marmalade and other bitter marmalades made elsewhere. For these, the Seville orange is the only orange in contention.
Seville sunshine bottled
Dundee Marmalade ready for labeling.
Your menu in France may offer:
Carré de Cerf Rôti aux Baies des Champs, Sauce Bigarade A cut from a rib of venison roasted with berries from the fields. Venison may be any member of the deer family, and in France, three types of deer are farm raised.  Wild deer may only be hunted, along with other wild game,  during a limited season, and then they will, usually, be on a special hunting season menu.  On a regular menu, wild deer would be listed as cerf sauvage, wild deer, or Cerf de la Chasse, deer from the hunt.  Baies des Champs means wild berries and for game that will undoubtedly include juniper berries.
Filet de Dindonneau aux Clémentines Sauce Bigarade – A slice of young turkey breast prepared with clementines and served with a sauce bigarade.

Duck with Sauce Bigarade
With Pommes Parisienne and Spaghetti Squash
Magret de Canard aux Fruits Rouges et sa Pomme Anna, Sauce Bigarade  Duck breast cooked in with red fruits, and accompanied by Anna potatoes and  a Sauce Bigarade. Red fruits on French menus change with the season and will include berries, plums, strawberriescherries etc.,

Pommes de Terre Anna are thinly sliced potatoes baked in butter in a casserole and the potato dish with an indiscreet the past. The dish was created by Adolphe Dugléré a pupil of the famous Antonin and the Chef de Cuisine at the Café Anglais in the middle of the 19th Century.  An important customer was Anna Deslions, who entertained her wealthy customers in one of the decorated and comfortable upstairs rooms of the restaurant.  Anna Deslions was one of Paris’s most famous courtesans.     

From the early part of the 19th Century through the early 20th Century discreet private rooms were available for secret meetings of all types; they were an important part of the better restaurants’ business. 
Goat Cheese with Bitter Orange Marmalade

Riz de Veau Sauce Bigarade – Veal sweetbreads served with a bigarade sauce.
Rôti de Veau Sauce Bigarade – Roast veal served with a Sauce Bigarade.

Suprême de Pintadeau Sauce Bigarade aux Fraises -Breast of Guinea hen served with a Sauce Bigarade and  strawberries,
Duck leg with orange sauce.
When I visited Seville
I visited Seville, Spain, at the height of the orange season and much of the town has Seville orange trees as decoration.   The trees were heavy with ripe fruit; however, not surprisingly, no one takes the fruit, not only because it is prohibited, but because they are too bitter. Only someone making a bigarade sauce or marmalade at home might be tempted to break the law and steal oranges.
 Plaza de Naranjas
The Seville orange tree courtyard in the Seville Cathedral, Spain.
The Catedral de Santa María de la Sede.
Picture courtesy of Larry Wentzel
Dundee marmalade.
The Seville orange makes the best orange marmalade with the most famous being Dundee Marmalade. How the Seville orange arrived in Dundee, Scotland is much disputed. What is not disputed is the fact that Dundee has been producing excellent orange marmalade for over 200 years.                  
There are other oranges amère, bitter oranges, available in French markets, and each has its own group of aficionados and particular uses.  Among the other well-known bitter oranges are:

Other bitter oranges.

The Bergamot Orange

The Bergamot Orange is a sub-species of the Seville/Bigarade orange and is famous for its scent, not its juice. The Bergamot orange is the scent behind Earl Grey tea and the Bergamot orange’s zest, very rarely will the Bergamot Orange be in the French kitchen, and then it used for its zest, its aroma.  The oils in the skin of the Bergamot orange are also used for essential oils in aromatherapy and in skin creams.
The Bergamot Orange.
Photograph courtesy of BGN100
The Maltese blood orange
The Orange Maltaise or Maltaise Sanguine, the Maltese blood orange, was the orange behind the original Sauce Maltaise.  Sauce Maltaise is Sauce Hollandaise with the juice, and the zest of the Maltese blood orange added. Today when Sauce Maltaise is on the menu, the Seville orange will usually have replaced the Maltese orange.
Oranges originated in the area of today’s China and Vietnam, and there are now hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties and crosses that have developed in tens of countries. Where the Seville orange developed is disputed, but as they grew very well in the region of Seville, Spain, that is now their most popular name.
The Maltese Blood Oranges.
Bryan G. Newman

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