Pith off

Every last bit of it, says Lisa, if you expect your tomato marmalade to come out correctly:

[H]ere’s where it gets tricky: that orange and that lemon. Turns out you have to carefully peel off the zest which is the thinnest uppermost part of the peel and DON’T WHATEVER YOU DO GET A SPECK OF THE PITH, THAT NASTY WHITE STUFF, WITH IT. Okay, my cookbook author didn’t exactly write those instructions that way or in capital letters but I sensed the urgency. She didn’t explain exactly what would happen if I inadvertently allowed pith to contaminate my zest. Bitterness? A dangerous chemical reaction? A meth lab like explosion? Note to cookbook writers: We laypeople like to know these things.

Much to everyone’s relief, the very first commenter explained it all:

You don’t want the pith because it is bitter and can make reduced dishes like jellies and jams especially bitter.

Direct enough. Even, as Lisa noted, pithy.

Me, I consider myself fortunate that I knew what “pith” and “zest” were.


  1. fillyjonk »

    29 September 2009 · 8:17 am

    I vaguely remember being told by some relative that the “white stuff” on orange slices contained an important nutrient – rutin, maybe?

    I always wondered if it was a ruse, like being told that eating the bread crusts would make one’s hair curly (I ceased believing that when I overheard them tell my brother it would put hair on his chest: why would there be gender-specific effects?).

    I was an excessively picky eater in many ways. But I still don’t like the “white stuff” on oranges

  2. Lisa Paul »

    29 September 2009 · 8:21 am

    And it should be noted, you might want to wear a pith helmet while separating the pith from the zest. Ba-da-bing.

  3. McGehee »

    29 September 2009 · 9:29 am

    Keeping the pith separate from the bath soap makes a great deal of sense to me.

  4. unimpressed »

    29 September 2009 · 10:04 am

    That just pitheth me off. :)

  5. Jeffro »

    29 September 2009 · 8:03 pm

    Better to be pithed off than pithed on. 8)

  6. Charles Pergiel »

    30 September 2009 · 11:55 pm

    Okay, you peel an orange before you eat it. But the white stuff is all around the orange, you can’t avoid it, so you are going to eat some and it is not bitter. It is is the outermost orange skin part that is bitter. Which completely contradicts the quote, which confuses me.

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