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Curaçao, Part 2 – The Curaçao Orange

Titelbild 2 - Curaçao-Schalen.
Photo: The peels of the real Curaçao orange.

Having dealt with the island of Curaçao in the previous part of this series, we now want to look at the oranges of that name. What is there to tell about them?

Let’s start with generalities: the bitter orange is also called Seville orange. It probably originated in southern China as a hybrid of pomelo and mandarin. It has been cultivated for more than 4000 years. The first mentions of the bitter orange in the Mediterranean region are found in Arabic writings in the 10th century. By the 11th century at the latest, the bitter orange had reached Italy. Sweet oranges, on the other hand, did not reach Europe until the 15th century. [17]

The Spaniards who settled the island of Curaçao also cultivated bitter orange there. These ran wild and a separate subspecies of the bitter orange, Citrus aurantium currassuviensis, was created. [9-210] [16]  [19-484]

The oldest references

The oldest reference we could find for “Curaçao orange” dates back to 1720. In that year, P. Marins writes in his Dutch-French dictionary: “CURAÇAOS or CURASSOUWSE apples, orange apples of Curaςao. Brandy on peels of Curacao apples or on orange peels. Eau de vie on Curaςao orange peels. CURASSOUWS-VAARDER Ship or captain going to Curaçao.” [3-173]

P. Marins: Compleet Nederduitsch en Fransch woordenboek. 1720, page 173.
P. Marins: Compleet Nederduitsch en Fransch woordenboek. 1720, page 173. [3-173]

– “CURAÇAOS of CURASSOUWSE Appelen, Oranje Appelen van Curaςao. Des Oranges de Curassau. Brandewyn op schillen van Curaçaos appelen of op Oranjeschillen. De l’Eau de vie sur de l’ecorce d’Oranges de Curassau. CURASSOUWS-VAARDER, Schip of Schipper op Curaçao vaarende. Vaisseau ou Capitaine allant à Curassau.[3-173]

Interesting in this finding is also that here is already a connection with the use of the peels as an ingredient for spirits. One macerated them in brandy and one also produced a distillate from it. What this means exactly, we will look at later in more detail.

Unfortunately, we could not find any older references, neither in books nor in digitized Dutch journals, although we took into account the numerous traditional spellings for Curaçao, such as Curacao, Curacoa, Curassao, Curassouw, Curacaure, Cvracao, Quracao, Carasou, Carazou or Corresao. Also the attempt to find something via the search terms Oranje, Oranjeboom, Oranjeappelen was not crowned with success. Yet there are enough older sources that report about oranges. For example, another Dutch work from 1676 describes the different varieties of citrus fruits. The term “Curaçao” does not appear in it. [13] In 1708, a French-Low German dictionary was published. In it, the word “Curaçao” is also not mentioned. [19-191] However, there are numerous entries on orange, for example: “ORANGE, s,f, Fruit. Oranje-appel. Orange aigre. Orange de la Chine. Een zuure oranje appel. Een Chinaas appel.[19-484] The Low German-French part, published in 1710, also keeps it that way. There, there is only the entry “Oranjenappel. orange.[20-36] The Italian-Low German dictionary of 1710 also does not know “Curaçao,” only “oranje-appelen,[21-141]oranje appel[21-957] and „Oranjeappelen“. [22-485]
These sources suggest that the name “Curaçao” for an orange did not originate until after 1700. Perhaps this also means that the peels of the same were not imported to Europe before? Because we have not found any evidence for this either.

The peels of the Curaçao orange

Amsterdamse courant, 10. October 1726.
Amsterdamse courant, 10. October 1726. [30]

But this also changes with the year 1726. In that year, on October 10, 5 containers filled with curacao orange peels, “5 canassers Curacao Oranje Schillen” are offered in the Amsterdamse Courant. [30] What exactly is meant by a canasser, we could not fathom.  Sometimes it is said that it is something like a basket. [14-28]

Amsterdamse Courant, 2. December 1726.
Amsterdamse Courant, 2. December 1726. [7]

But on December 3, 1726, “3 Canassers Curaçao Oranje Schillen[7] are offered. On the same page, things are also offered in “korven”, or baskets. So a canasser does not necessarily have to be a basket. Who knows more here, please contact us.

Leeuwarder courant, 12. February 1757.
Leeuwarder courant, 12. February 1757.[18]

In 1757, the Leeuwarder Courant mentions “Curacao Appelen” in a prescription against fever. [18]

William Lewis: The new dispensatory. 1765, page 305.
William Lewis: The new dispensatory. 1765, page 305. [12-305]

A medical work published in London in 1765 uses Curaçao oranges, “Curassao oranges,” in the formulations for “infusum antiscorbuticum” [12-276] and “elixir stomachicum.” [12-305] In the latter it is written:- „This elixir differs from that of former editions, in the substitution of Curassao oranges to fresh orange peel, and in the addition of half an ounce of Virginian snakeroot. The first is a grateful aromatic bitter, and the latter superadds a degree of pungency coinciding with the intention. [12-305]

So we see that the peels of the Curaçao orange were preferred for their aromatic properties. This work was often reprinted in subsequent years. It also appeared in a Dutch translation published in 1773. In this translation, regarding another bitters, one writes: “The peel of the Seville oranges of the previous editions has been replaced here by the young unripe fruit of the orange tree, called Curaçao Orange; an article well suited for mixtures of this kind, being a spicy bitter with a very pleasant fragrance.[23-306]

De nieuwe Britsche apotheek. Tweede stuck III en IV. deel. 1773, page 306.
De nieuwe Britsche apotheek. Tweede stuck III en IV. deel. 1773, page 306. [23-306]

– „De Seville Oranjeschil van de voorgaande uitgaven, is hier verruild voor de jonge onrype vrugt van den Oranjeboom, Curassao Oranjes genaamd; een artikel, dat wel geschikt is voor saamenmengsels van deezen aart, als zynde een speceryagtig bitter van eenen zeer aangenaam en geur.[23-306]

Even in these early years, the general confusion that basically prevails with the Curaçao orange is evident. Although one initially thinks that they must be oranges originating from Curaçao, this is usually not the case. We will find more evidence of this in the following. Here, it was understood to mean unripe oranges of any origin.

The same explanation, namely that Curaçao oranges were understood to be the young, unripe fruit of bitter orange trees, regardless of whether they came from the variety of bitter orange growing on Curaçao, will be published again and again in the following years. In order to avoid repetition, we already point out this fact and thus do not need to refer to it again and again when considering the following quotations.

In the third part of his Oekonomische Encyklopädie, published in 1774, Johann Georg Krünitz describes the various types of bitter orange under the heading Aurantium. These include sweet oranges, which he calls “süßsaftige Pomeranzen” – “sweet-juicy bitter oranges” -, but which he distinguishes from oranges. [1] Curaçao-Orangen führt er nicht gesondert als eigene Art auf, sondern schreibt später im Text: “The small unripe bitter orange, commonly called Curassau, Mala aurantia immatura or viridia, Fr. Petites Oranges, or Orangelettes, likewise Petit-Grain, are generally offered dried in the trade of specie merchants, chemists, apothecaries, and Italians, and, because they are very hard and solid when dried, are turned, polished, and sold as corals; and, because of their good odor, are very popular for paternosters and rose wreaths.[1]

-„Die kleinen unreifen Pomeranzen, insgemein Curassau genannt, Mala aurantia immatura oder viridia, Fr. Petites Oranges, oder Orangelettes, ingleichen Petit-Grain, werden in den Handlungen der Specereihändler, Droguisten, Apotheker und Italiener insgemein getrocknet geführt, und, weil sie getrocknet sehr hart und vest sind, gedrechselt, polirt, und als Corallen angereihet verkauft; und sind, wegen ihres guten Geruchs, zu Paternostern und Rosencränzen sehr beliebt.[1]

In 1779, a German book about the oil extracted from the peels of oranges writes: “This is also prepared in a double way, as it was said with the oil of the lemon, by distilling the fresh peel with water and squeezing it. The former suggested the pharmacopoeia indicated. The other, certainly the one practiced on the island of Curaçao, consists in pressing the oil from the fresh rind of the ripest apple [meaning orange], shaking it off against the inclined plane of a glass plate, and collecting it for use as it flows down. … On Curaçao this oil is especially recommended for its cardiac, gastric, and digestive properties.[34-300]

Johann Andreas Murray: Apparatus medicaminum. 1779, page 300.
Johann Andreas Murray: Apparatus medicaminum. 1779, page 300. [34-300]

– „Duplici modo et hoc, prout de oleo Citri dictum est, paratur, destillatione corticis recentis cum aqua, et expressione. Primum proposuit Pharmacopoea indicata. Alter, certe qui in insula Curassao exercetur , hic est, quod oleum ex cortice recenti Mali maturissimi presso, versus planum inclinatum laminae vitreae excutiatur defluensque ad vsum colligatur. … In Curassao oleum hoc commendabile maxime se reddit vi cardiaca stomachica et carminatiua.[34-300]

According to this book, oil seems to have been extracted from the peels of oranges growing on the island of Curaçao – strange only that this is not confirmed in any other source. And also the author seems not to have been completely sure, otherwise he would have renounced the word “certainly”.

G. Motherby: A new medical dictionary. 1785.
G. Motherby: A new medical dictionary. 1785. [33]

In 1785, an encyclopedia under the keyword “aurantia hispalensis” confirms what we have already established: “The young unripe Seville oranges are called curassoa, or curassao apples; also aurantia curassaventia, aurantia enaseentia, and aurantia immatura. They are a grateful aromatic bitter, of a flavour very different from that of the peel from the ripe fruit, and without any acid, what little tartness they have when fresh, is lost in drying. Spirit of wine extracts all their virtue; water but imperfectly; infused in wine or brandy they afford a good bitter for the stomach.[33]

Dutch newspapers regularly advertised what goods had been landed in the ports and were available for sale. In this context, one can note that “Curacao Oranje Schillen” appear in the Dutch newspapers of the 18th century, but rarely. Otherwise, one often finds orange peels mentioned with a different origin. This can really only mean that Curacao oranges were a rare commodity.

Leydse Courant, 26. Oktober 1791, page 2.
Leydse Courant, 26. Oktober 1791, page 2. [6]

On October 26, 1791, 22 barrels of peels of the Curaçao orange, “22 Vaten Cort. Curacao,” were offered. [6] Peels of the Curaçao orange are also offered on February 16, 1796 in the Amsterdamsche Courant, [5] on March 8, 1791 in the Rotterdamse Courant [4] and on March 22, 1791 in the Rotterdamse Courant. [2] These are only exemplary mentioned finds. In the following years, there are numerous other finds, although not many in total.

In 1806, a product dictionary describes the peels: “The Kurassao or Curassau apples are unripe dried bitter orange peels from the West Indian island of Curassao, and, like the brandy extracted from them, are very popular because of their exquisite bitterness or aromatic parts. Often, the small dried bitter orange fruits are also called Curassao apples. In southern Europe, these unripe fruits are much used in sugar and are often shipped for all kinds of uses, in spirituous beverages and the like. The peels of the ripe fruits are used both fresh in various ways for the distillation of an oil and other purposes, as well as preserved in sugar (see Succade), or dried, on long threads. In both latter ways, southern Europe ships a great deal of it. When the white, spongy, unpleasant-tasting pith is peeled off, the remaining part is called the yellow of the bitter orange peel in pharmacies. Among these, the ones from the island of Curassao, which according to information are collected from unripe fruits, are incomparably thinner, must therefore not be peeled off, and have a far more pleasant taste and smell. From a variety of bitter orange, which grows on the island of Barbados and is called bergamot, a very fragrant oil is obtained from the fresh peels by a mere mechanical treatment without distillation under the name of bergamot or orange oil, of which 160 fruits are said to yield only 2 to 3 loth. Of the Italian bergamot oil, see the art. Bergamotessent.[11-376]

G. P. H. Norrmann: Gottfried Christian Bohns Waarenlager. 1806, page 376.
G. P. H. Norrmann: Gottfried Christian Bohns Waarenlager. 1806, page 376. [11-376]

– “Die Kurassao- oder Curassau-Äpfel sind unreife getrocknete Pomeranzen von der Westindischen Insel Curassao, und, wie der davon abgezogene Branntwein, wegen ihrer vorzüglichen Bitterkeit oder aromatischen Theile, sehr beliebt. Häufig nennt man auch die kleinen getrockneten Pomeranzen überhaupt Curassaoäpfel. Im südlichen Europa macht man diese unreifen Früchte sehr viel in Zucker ein und versendet sie häufig zu allerley Gebrauch, in geistigen Getränken u.s.f. Die Schalen von den reifen Früchten gebraucht man sowohl frisch auf mancherley Art zur Destiliation eines Oels u. a. Absichten, als auch in Zucker eingemacht (s. Succade), oder getrocknet, auf langen Fäden. Auf beide letztere Art versendet das südliche Europa sehr viel davon. Wenn das weiße, schwammige, unangenehm schmeckende Mark davon ausgeschält ist, so nennt man in den Apotheken das Uebriggebliebene das Gelbe der Pomeranzenschalen. Unter diesen sind die von der Insel Curassao, welche man der Angabe nach von unreifen Früchten sammlet, ungleich dünner, dürfen daher nicht ausgeschält werden, und haben einen weit angenehmern Geschmack und Geruch. Von einer Abart der Pomerangen, die auf der Insel Barbados wachsen und Bergamotten genannt werden, erhält man aus den frischen Schalen durch eine bloße mechanische Behandlung ohne Destillation ein sehr wohlriechendes Oel unter dem Namen Bergamots- oder Orangenöl, wovon 160 Früchte nur 2 bis 3 Loth geben sollen. Von dem Italienischen Bergamotöl s. den Art. Bergamotessent.[11-376]

This encyclopedia entry confirms what we have found so far: Curaçao oranges were understood to be all small unripe fruits from Curaçao and bitter orange trees, regardless of origin or even originating from the island of Curaçao. The text gives the impression that orange peel was an export item in Curaçao; however, as we have proven, it most likely was not. Presumably, the author is reporting here from hearsay and not from explicit knowledge. Similar doubts about provenance come with some of the other texts from which we quote below. It is true that one writes that the peels of the Curaçao oranges come from the island of the same name. This is not very likely for the reasons mentioned above. We will not point out this inconsistency each time in the following to avoid repetitions.

This generalization was, however, even more extensive, as a report of the year 1832 proves. The term Curaçao was understood to include the peel of lemons: “CURAÇAO. This is the name given to the peel or rind of oranges and lemons that have been dried. One sells these peels packed in bags. They are used for flavoring certain fancy beers, various liqueurs, and especially the one called Curaçao, Curaçao of Holland, etc. See the article SPIRITS LIQUEURS.[32-774]

M. Guillaumin: Encyclopédie du commerçant. 1832, page 774.
M. Guillaumin: Encyclopédie du commerçant. 1832, page 774. [32-774]

–  „CURAÇAO. On nomme ainsi les zesies ou écorces, d’oranges et de citrons qu’on a fait dessécher. On vend ces zestes emballés dans des sacs. Ils sont employés pour aromatiser certaines bières de fantaisie, plusieurs liqueurs, et notamment celle qui porte elle-mème le nom de curaçao, curaçao d’Hollande, etc. Voyez l’article LIQUEURS SPIRITUESES.[32-774]

Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt, erster Band. 1834, page 732.
Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt, erster Band. 1834, page 732. [10-732]

A recipe published in 1834 calls for “Curaçao d’Hollande *[10-732] as an ingredient. This is accompanied by a footnote stating, “* The fine variety of bitter orange peel known by the name cortices aurantiorum curassavicorum.[10-732]

A report from 1839 also sheds interesting light on this problem: “Curassao, a fine liqueur prepared from Curassao apples (see article), available from Berlin, Breslau, Danzig and Quedlinburg. Curassao apples, Curassavica Aurantia, the small green, unripe fruits of an excellent variety of the bitter orange tree, which grows in South America and the West Indies, especially on the island of Curassao. They are picked there when they have reached the size of a strong pea to a cherry, in order to preserve them with sugar or to dry them. When fresh, they are green and have a somewhat tart taste; when dried, they have a brown-green or black-green color, a somewhat wrinkled appearance, a pleasant spicy odor, and a very bitter taste. They are used especially in pharmacies in watery, vinous or spiritual infusions, or also among stomach powders. They are also used in the preparation of liqueurs. Curassao peel, Curassavian peel, Cortex Curassao, etc. A bitter orange peel is sold which differs from the common bitter orange peel, see Pomeranzen, in that it contains almost no white pulp, is thinner and stronger, yellow-greenish on the outside, larger and far more expensive, exceeding the price of the common 3 to 4 times. The tree grows in the West Indies and South America, is a variety of the bitter orange tree, but not yet sufficiently described. The English trade heavily with it on the island of Curassao, from where it gets its name. It can be obtained from London, Trieste.[28-344]

Albert Franz Töcher: Vollständiges Lexikon der Waarenkunde. 1839, page 344.
Albert Franz Töcher: Vollständiges Lexikon der Waarenkunde. 1839, page 344. [28-344]

 – „Curassao, ein aus Curassao-Aepfeln (s. d. Art.) bereiteter feiner Liqueur, von Berlin, Breslau, Danzig und Quedlinburg zu beziehen. Curassao Aepfel, Curassavica Aurantia, die kleinen grünen, unreifen Früchte einer ausgezeichneten Spielart des Pomeranzenbaumes, welche in Südamerika und Westindien, namentlich auf der Insel Curassao wächst. Man pflückt sie dort, wenn sie die Große einer starken Erbse bis zu einer Kirsche erlangt haben, um sie mit Zucker einzumachen oder zu trocknen. Frisch sind sie grün und schmecken etwas herbe; getrocknet bekommen sie eine braungrüne oder schwarzgrüne Farbe, ein etwas runzliches Ansehen und einen angenehmen gewürzigen Geruch, und einen sehr bittern Geschmack. Sie werden vorzüglich in Apotheken in wässerigem, weinigem oder geistigem Aufgusse, oder auch unter Magenpulvern gebraucht. Auch benutzt man sie zur Liqueurbereitung. Curassao-Schalen, kurassavische Schalen, Cortex Curassao, u. d. N. kommt eine Pomeranzenschale in Handel, die sich von der gewöhnlichen Pomeranzenschale, s. Pomeranzen, dadurch unterscheidet, daß sie fast gar kein weißes Mark enthält, mithin dünner und kräftiger, äußerlich gelbgrünlich, größer und bei weitem theurer ist, indem sie den Preis der gewöhnlichen 3 bis 4 Mal übersteigt. Der Baum wächst in Westindien und Süd-Amerika, ist eine Abart des Pomeranzenbaums, jedoch noch nicht hinlänglich beschrieben. Die Engländer treiben starken Handel auf der Insel Curassao damit, woher sie auch ihren Namen hat. Ueber London, Triest zu beziehen.[28-344]

This report limits somewhat, because according to it Curaçao oranges are to be understood quite as a separate variety, and not basically all bitter oranges. However, it is by no means the case that it must be the one growing on Curaçao; rather, this variety is reported to grow in the West Indies and in South America.

The reference to the trading activities of the English casts doubt on the credibility of the source. As we have noted, oranges were not an important product of the island of Curaçao, so why would they have been traded heavily on the island, and then of all things by the English, when the island was administered by the Dutch, and therefore Dutch merchants certainly traded there the most. Perhaps one must interpret the text in such a way that Curaçao sailors were loaded coming from Curaçao in Barbados. A report from 1857, which we will discuss later, makes this seem likely.

Let us also quote from a Conversations-Lexicon from 1846: “Curassao or Curassau apples are the unripe, dried bitter oranges from the West Indian island of Curassao, which are more highly valued than the similar fruits from southern Europe because of their excellent bitterness and aromatic parts; they are used to prepare a popular liqueur, Curassao water or Rosoli. – Curassao peels are the peels of the not quite ripe bitter orange and come from the mentioned island; they are much thinner than the bitter orange peels from Spain and Sicily, must not be peeled and have a much more pleasant and stronger smell and taste; see bitter orange peels.[29-164]

Conversations-Lexicon der kaufmännischen Wissenschaften. 1846, page 164.
Conversations-Lexicon der kaufmännischen Wissenschaften. 1846, page 164. [29-164]

– „Curassao- oder Curassau-Aepfel nennt man die unreifen, getrockneten Pomeranzen von der Westindischen Insel Curassao, welche wegen ihrer vorzüglichen Bitterkeit und aromatischen Theile höher geschätzt werden, als die ähnlichen Früchte aus dem südlichen Europa; man gebraucht sie zur Zubereitung eines beliebten Likörs, Curassao-Wasser oder Rosoli. – Curassao-Schalen sind die Schalen der nicht ganz reifen Pomeranzen und kommen von der erwähnten Insel; sie fallen ungleich dünner aus als die Pomeranzenschalen aus Spanien und Sicilien, dürfen nicht ausgeschält werden und haben einen weit angenehmern und stärkern Geruch und Geschmack; siehe Pomeranzenschalen.[29-164]

Perhaps it is the case that the variety of bitter orange endemic to Curaçao was attempted to be cultivated elsewhere, in the other West Indies and in South America? This is suggested by a report from 1847: “Cortex Aurantiorum curassavicorum s. Cortex Curassao. Curassao peels. This rind comes from the fruit of a variety of the bitter orange, originally native to the American island of Curassao. It is considered the best variety of bitter orange peel and is therefore more often preferred, despite its slightly higher price.[26-448]

Fr. Oesterlen: Handbuch der Heilmittellehre. 1847, page 448.
Fr. Oesterlen: Handbuch der Heilmittellehre. 1847, page 448. [26-448]

– „Cortex Aurantiorum curassavicorum s. Cortex Curassao. Curassao-Schalen. Diese Rinde stammt von der Frucht einer Abart der Pomeranze, welche ursprünglich auf der americanischen Insel Curassao zu Hause ist. Sie gilt als die beste Sorte von Pomeranzenschalen und wird daher trotz ihres etwas höheren Preises öfters vorgezogen.[26-448]

If this had been so, the peel of the curaçao oranges should have been relatively easily available, regardless of its origin. However, it was not, at least not in France, as we are informed in 1855: „CURAÇAO DE HOLLANDE. – This is the name given to the peel of the fruit of a certain species of orange tree which grows on the island of Curaçao, one of the West Indies, and which falls from the tree before it is ripe. Its dry peels have a strong, aromatic and very pleasant smell and are thin and bronze-green in color. Genuine Dutch curaçao bark is very difficult to find commercially: It is often substituted by curaçao commun ou carton [meaning ordinary bitter orange rind], which is four times less valuable. CURAÇAO COMMUN OU CARTON. – The dried peel of the orange of the common bitter orange tree native to France, Italy and Spain. The essential product of this tree is the peel of its fruit; it is separated from the apple by cutting it into quarters, and then dried before being shipped. When dry, the rind is thick and has a very light fragrance. There is also a variety of curaçao on the market that is twisted and has no white skin, and should be preferred. Some druggists carefully select curaçao commun ou carton with a thin white skin and a bronze color and sell it as curaçao de Hollande. CURAÇOAO DOUX OR ORANGE PEEL. – Fleshy skin of the orange tree fruit. The peel has a golden yellow color, is bitter and strongly aromatic, characteristics that it retains even after drying. There are also dried orange peel in ribbons. This product is used as a tonic.[31-425] [31-426]

P. Duplais: Traité de la fabrication des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools. 1855, page 425-426.
P. Duplais: Traité de la fabrication des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools. 1855, page 425-426. [31-425] [31-426]

–  „CURAÇAO DE HOLLANDE. — On nomme ainsi les zestes ou écorces d’un fruit d’une espèce particulière d’oranger-bigaradier croissant dans l’île de Curaçao, l’une des Antilles, et qui tombe de l’arbre avant sa maturité. Ses écorces sèches sont douées d’une forte odeur aromatique très-agréable, elles doivent être peu épaisses et d’une couleur vert bronié. Les véritables écorces de curaçao de Hollande sont fort difficiles à trouver dans le commerce: on leur substitue souvent celles de curaçao carton, dont la valeur vénale est quatre fois moindre. CURAÇAO COMMUN OU CARTON. — Ecorce sèche de l’orange du bigaradier commun qui croît en France, en Italie et en Espagne. Le produit essentiel de cet arbre est dans l’écorce de son fruit; on la sépare de la pomme en la coupant par quartiers, puis on la fait sécher avant de l’expédier. Sèche, cette écorce est épaisse et son parfum très-léger. On trouve aussi dans le commerce un genre de curaçao commun en rubans, c’est-à-dire tourné et complètement privé de pellicule blanche, auquel on devra donner la préférence. Certains droguistes choisissent avec soin les écorces de curaçao carton dont la pellicule blanche est mince et dont la couleur est broniée, puis les vendent pour du curaçao de Hollande. CURAÇAO DOUX OU ÉCORCES D’ORANGES. — Enveloppe charnue du fruit de l’oranger. Cette écorce, d’une couleur jaune d’or, est amère et fortement aromatique, qualités qu’elle possède même après aa dessiccation. Il existe aussi des zestes d’oranges sèches en rubans. Ce produit est employé comme tonique.[31-425] [31-426]

The most interesting thing about this report is this: All bitter orange peels were called Curaçao peels. Sweet oranges, moreover, also received the designation Curaçao Doux, that is, sweet Curaçao.

Man nannte die getrockneten Schalen der Süßorange aber auch Curaçao de Paris, wie wir einem Buch aus dem Jahr 1868 entnehmen können: „Die Schalen von Bitterorangen sind unter dem Namen Curaçao des Iles oder de Hollande bekannt und werden am meisten geschätzt. Sie ist grün und wird von unreifen Früchten entfernt. Die gelbe oder gelbliche Schale stammt von reifen Früchten und ist am wenigsten geschätzt. Die trockene Schale von Süßorangen wird als curaçâo de Paris bezeichnet.[15-670]

M. Deschamps: Compendium de pharmacie pratique. 1868, page 670.
M. Deschamps: Compendium de pharmacie pratique. 1868, page 670. [15-670]

– „Les zestes des oranges amères est connu sous le nom de curaçao des Iles ou de Hollande; c’est le plus estimé. Il es vert et est enlevé aux fruits qui n’ont pas atteint leur maturité. L’écorce jaune ou jaunâtre provient des fruits mûrs; elle est la moins estimée. L’écorce sèche des oranges douces porte le nom de curaçâo de Paris.[15-670]

A journal of the year 1857 again confirms the general confusion: “The drogue offered in the trade as the most excellent Curaçao bitter orange peel has been called by this name either intentionally or erroneously. The island of Curaçao (pronounced Kurassaagu; since 1814 in possession of the Dutch) in the West Indies is located near the mainland of South America, was a smuggling station; According to the latest travelogues [1830]*), together with the smaller islands belonging to it, it is only 28 square miles in size, belongs to the Dutch, has only 18,000 inhabitants, and is almost entirely a rock, whose naturally infertile soil produces mainly salt (about 69,000 barrels), corn, and some West Indian trade products in not large quantities through the industriousness of the inhabitants. Since 1841, nopal culture has been introduced here for the production of cochineal. The Curassao apples, Citrus aurantium currasaviensis (also Curassavica aurantia), are small, are preserved with sugar, but are not an export article of importance. But the ships coming from Curaçao, which land on the British island of Barbadoes and change cargoes [freighted] **), take from the oranges and lemons growing here in large quantities for consumption. Barbadoes, the easternmost island among the Antilles in the West Indies, is 10 square miles in size, has the healthiest climate among the Antilles islands, is exceptionally cultivated due to the influence of the English, and besides sugar, the export of which in 1852 already amounted to 743,010 centners, cultivates coffee, and especially many oranges and lemons, which form an export article. I intend to add the number of this export article from the “English trade statistics” ***). The orange fruits grown to Barbadoes are a variety of Citrus aurantium, have a pleasant, strong aroma, and their peels a very thin parenchyma. But whether the costly transport with orange peels from the Antilles to Northern Germany is worth the expense? I must leave this question to the relevant trading houses to answer. Commercial speculation has revealed the commercially available bitter orange peels with thin parenchyma of Citrus Aurantium latifolium, C. A. tahiticum, C. A. sinense, C. A. costatum, C. A. angustifolium, C. A. multiflorum and C. A. longifolium from southern Europe are quite conveniently and much more benignly baptized with Curassao peels. It is notorious how much this convenience is to blame for the synonimics in mercantile drugology.[25-138]

Zeitschrift für Natur- und Heilkunde in Ungarn. 1857, page 138.
Zeitschrift für Natur- und Heilkunde in Ungarn. 1857, page 138. [25-138]

– „Die in dem Handel als vorzüglichste Curaçao-Pomeranzenschalen ausgebotene Drogue ist entweder absichtlich oder irrthümlich mit diesem Namen bezeichnet worden. Die Insel Curaçao (sprich Kurassaagu; seit 1814 im Besitz der Niederländer) in Westindien liegt in der Nähe des Festlandes Südamerika, war eine Schmugglerstation; ist nach den neuesten Reisebeschreibungen [1830]*) sammt dem dazu gehörenden kleineren Eilande nur 28 geographische Quadratmeilen gross, gehört den Niederländern, hat nur 18,000 Einwohner und ist fast nur ein Felsen, dessen von Natur unfruchtbarer Boden durch den Fleiss der Einwohner hauptsächlich Salz (circa 69,000 Fässer), Mais und einige westindische Handelsproducte in nicht grosser Menge hervorbringen. Seit 1841 ist hier die Nopalcultur zur Gewinnung von Cochenille eingeführt. Die Curassaoäpfel, Citrus aurantium currasaviensis (auch Curassavica aurantia), sind klein, werden mit Zucker eingemacht, sind jedoch kein Exportartikel von Belang. Sondern die von Curaçao kommenden Schiffe, die auf der britischen Insel Barbadoes landen und Frachten wechseln [freighted] **), nehmen von den hier in grosser Menge wachsenden Orangen und Citronen zur Verfahrung auf. Barbadoes, die östlichste Insel unter den Antillen in Westindien, ist 10 Quadratmeilen gross, hat unter den Antilleninseln das gesundeste Klima, ist durch die Einwirkung der Engländer ausserordentlich angebaut, cultivirt ausser Zucker, dessen Ausfuhr 1852 schon 743,010 Centner betragen hat, Kaffee, besonders viele Orangen und Citronen, die einen Exportartikel bilden. Die Ziffer dieses Exportartikels beabsichtige ich aus der “englischen Handelsstatistik” ***) nachzutragen. Die zu Barbadoes gezogenen Orangefrüchte sind eine Spielart von Citrus aurantium, haben ein angenehmes, starkes Aroma, und deren Schalen ein sehr dünnes Parenchym. Ob jedoch der kostspielige Transport mit Orangenschalen von den Antillen nach Norddeutschland die Unkosten lohnt? Diese Frage muss ich den betreffenden Handelshäusern zur Beantwortung anheimstellen. Kaufmännische Speculation hat die im Handel vorkommenden Pomeranzenschalen mit dünnem Parenchym von Citrus Aurantium latifolium, C. A. tahiticum, C. A.  sinense, C. A. costatum, C. A. angustifolium, C. A. multiflorum und C. A. longifolium aus dem südlichen Europa recht bequem und viel wohlfeiler mit Curassaoschalen getauft. Es ist notorisch, wie viel diese Bequemlichkeit Schuld an der Synonimik in der mercantilischen Droguenkunde hat.[25-138]

So we get confirmation again that oranges from Curaçao were not an export item, but rather oranges and lemons from the ships that landed on Curaçao were subsequently loaded in Barbados, where they were an export item. Furthermore, all sorts of bitter orange varieties, which also had a thin parenchyma, were marketed as Curaçao oranges.

The “Lehrbuch der Pharmakognosie des Pflanzenreiches” writes in 1867: “The fruits of a variety of the bitter orange cultivated on the West Indian island of Curaçao and probably also on Barbadoes remain green and were since the XVIIth or the beginning of the XVIIIth century particularly popular because of their thin, very aromatic peels. Now, instead of these Curassavian peels, one probably only gets the peels collected from unripe French fruits or, more likely, the peels of a green-fruited variety there, since they are delivered, for example, from Nimes in the same size as the usual yellow-red ones.[8-568]

Friedrich August Flückiger: Lehrbuch der Pharmakognosie des Pflanzenreiches. 1867, page 568.
Friedrich August Flückiger: Lehrbuch der Pharmakognosie des Pflanzenreiches. 1867, page 568. [8-568]

– „Die Früchte einer auf der westindischen Insel Curaçao und auch wohl auf Barbadoes cultivirten Abart der bitteren Orange bleiben grün und waren seit dem XVII. oder dem Anfange des XVIII. Jahrhunderts ihrer dünnen, sehr aromatischen Schalen wegen besonders beliebt. Jetzt erhält man statt dieser Curassavischen Schalen wohl immer nur die von unreifen französischen Früchten gesammelten oder wahrscheinlicher die Schalen einer dortigen grünfrüchtigen Spielart, da sie z. B. aus Nimes in gleicher Grösse geliefert werden wie die gewöhnlichen gelbrothen.[8-568]

This book confirms what we have already deduced. The bitter oranges cultivated on Barbados were also equated with those on Curaçao. Also, the text suggests that the use of Curaçao peels probably dates back to the late 17th to early 18th century. We recall that our oldest find dates from 1720.

In view of the above, one can now understand why a book of 1867 defines the term “curassao apples” quite broadly: “Curassao, a fine liqueur prepared from Curassao apples. Curassao apples, Curassavica aurantia, are the name given to the small green unripe fruits of a variety of the bitter orange tree, the Curassao-bitter-orange-lemon-tree, Citrus Aurantium curassaviensis or Malus Auranti major, which grows in the West Indies and especially on the island of Curassao. The fruits are picked when they are the size of a pea to a cherry, and are either dried or preserved in sugar. The former are brown-green or black-green, somewhat wrinkled, have a pleasant spicy odor and very bitter taste, and are so hard that they can be turned and polished. They are used in apothecaries for watery, vinous and spiritual infusions, for stomach powders, for the preparation of bishop’s essence and bitter liqueurs, and twisted they are put into fontanelles in which a strong stimulus is to be produced. Curassao peels, Cortices Aurantiorum curassaviensum, are the dried peels of ripe Curassao apples cut into quarters. They differ from the ordinary bitter orange peel in that they have little pith on the inside, which therefore does not need to be cut out; also their taste is more pleasantly spicy and warming. However, they are much more expensive than those and are therefore less used. The outer side is grayish-brown or brownish-yellow in color, and the pith is usually brownish and less thick than in other types of bitter orange. They are called true or brown, as distinguished from the false or green, which come from a species of orange growing in Spain. These are greenish-gray in color, and their flavor is nearly the same as the preceding, only somewhat less spicy. They have come into commerce only in recent times, and since they cost only about the sixth part of the genuine ones, they are often used in their place. Both types are mainly used to make Curassao liqueur.[24-357]

Ludwig Ford: Neuestes Universal-Lexicon der gesammten kaufmännischen Wissenschaften. 1867, page 357.
Ludwig Ford: Neuestes Universal-Lexicon der gesammten kaufmännischen Wissenschaften. 1867, page 357. [24-357]

– „Curassao, ein aus den Curassaoäpfeln bereiteter feiner Likör. Curassaoäpfel, Curassavica aurantia, nennt man die kleinen grünen unreifen Früchte einer Abart des Pomeranzenbaumes, des Curassaopomeranzencitronenbaumes, Citrus Aurantium curassaviensis oder Malus Auranti major, der in Westindien und besonders auf der Insel Curassao wächst. Die Früchte werden gepflückt, wenn sie die Größe einer Erbse bis zu einer Kirsche haben, und werden entweder getrocknet oder in Zucker eingemacht. Die ersteren sind braungrün oder schwarzgrün, etwas runzelig, haben einen angenehm gewürzhaften Geruch und sehr bitteren Geschmack, und sind so hart, daß sie sich drechseln und poliren lassen. Man benutzt sie in den Apotheken zu wässerigen, weinigen und geistigen Aufgüssen, zu Magenpulvern, zur Bereitung von Bischofessenz und bitteren Likören, und abgedreht legt man sie in Fontanelle, in denen ein starker Reiz erzeugt werden soll. Curassaoschalen,  Cortices Aurantiorum curassaviensum, sind die in Viertel geschnittenen, getrockneten Schalen der reifen Curassaoäpfel. Sie unterscheiden sich von den gewöhnlichen Pomeranzenschalen besonders dadurch, daß sie auf der innern Seite nur wenig Mark haben, welches daher nicht ausgeschnitten zu werden braucht; auch ist ihr Geschmack angenehmer gewürzhaft und erwärmend. Sie sind aber viel theurer als jene und werden deshalb weniger gebraucht. Die äußere Seite ist graubraun oder braungelb von Farbe, das Mark gewöhnlich bräunlich und weniger dick, als bei anderen Pomeranzenarten. Man nennt sie ächte oder braune, zum Unterschied von den unächten oder grünen, welche von einer in Spanien wachsenden Orangenart kommen. Diese sind grünlichgrau von Farbe und ihr Geschmack ist den vorigen fast gleich, nur etwas weniger gewürzhaft. Sie sind erst in der neueren Zeit in den Handel gekommen und da sie nur ohngefähr den sechsten Theil der ächten kosten, so werden sie häufig an deren Stelle gebraucht. Beide Arten werden hauptsächlich zur Verfertigung des Curassaolikörs benutzt.[24-357]

In 1882 it was written: “The unripe fruits are the pea- to cherry-sized, roundish, dark gray-brown outside, light brown inside, wrinkled, rough, rather hard, dense fruits that fall off by themselves; they smell pleasantly spicy, especially when crushed, taste aromatically bitter, somewhat tart. The ripe fruits are already described above. Their peels come dried into the trade as elliptical pieces, pointed at both ends, which make up 1/4 to 1/6 of the whole fruit. A distinction is made between a) common orange peels; they are 3 – 4 millimeters thick, brown on the outside, more or less approaching red and yellow, with deep dots, and contain much white spongy pulp. The best come from Spain and Portugal. b) Curassavian orange peels; they come from a separate variety grown on the West Indian island of Curassao, are far thinner than the European ones, rarely 2 millimeters thick, dark dirty green on the outside, contain less and denser white pith, smell stronger and more pleasantly aromatic than those. Both taste strongly spicy bitter, while the lower white spongy part also has a bitter but no aromatic taste. However, the peels of unripe, still green oranges from southern Europe are now usually marketed as Curassavian peels.[27-612]

G. C. Wittgenstein: Enzyclopaedie der Naturwissenschaften. II. Abtheilung. II. Theil. 1882, page 612.
G. C. Wittgenstein: Enzyclopaedie der Naturwissenschaften. II. Abtheilung. II. Theil. 1882, page 612. [27-612]

– „Die unreifen Früchte sind die von selbst abfallenden erbsen- bis kirschengrossen, rundlichen, aussen dunkel graubraunen, innen hellbraunen, runzeligen, rauhen, ziemlich harten, dichten Früchte; sie riechen angenehm gewürzhaft, zumal beim Zerreiben, schmecken aromatisch bitter, etwas herbe. Die reifen Früchte sind bereits oben beschrieben. Ihre Schalen kommen getrocknet in den Handel als elliptische, an beiden Enden spitze Stücke, die 1/4 bis 1/6 der ganzen Frucht ausmachen. Man unterscheidet a) Gewöhnliche Orangenschalen; sie sind 3 — 4 Millim. dick, aussen braun, z. Th. mehr oder weniger dem Rothen und Gelben sich nähernd, vertieft punktirt, und enthalten viel weisses schwammiges Mark. Die besten kommen aus Spanien und Portugal. b) Kurassavische Orangenschalen; sie kommen von einer eigenen Varietät, die auf der westindischen Insel Kurassao gezogen wird, sind weit dünner als die europäischen, selten 2 Millim. dick, aussen dunkel schmutzig grün, enthalten weniger und dichteres weisses Mark, riechen stärker und angenehmer aromatisch als jene. Beide schmecken stark gewürzhaft bitter, während der untere weisse schwammige Theil zwar auch einen bitteren, aber keinen aromatischen Geschmack besitzt. Als kurassavische Schalen werden jetzt jedoch meist die Schalen von unreifen, noch grünen Orangen aus dem südlichen Europa in den Handel gebracht.[27-612]

Conclusion

The oldest document we have found that refers to ” Curaçao oranges” dates back to 1720. It was already written that these peels were macerated and also a distillate was made from them. The sources suggest that this term must have originated around 1700.

There is a statement that Curaçao oranges, which originally came from Curaçao, were probably identical to the variety cultivated on Barbados and were particularly popular around 1700. Perhaps attempts were made to cultivate the variety originating in Curaçao on other West Indies islands and in South America, or the bitter orange varieties of the region were independently similar.Already the older texts speak of the fact that one understood by a Curaçao orange the unripe fruit of the bitter orange tree, independently of whether this really came from Curaçao or belonged to the bitter orange variety resident there. Nevertheless, some sources speak of Curaçao oranges being an export of Curaçao. Some authors seem to be uncertain about this or report only from hearsay. This is contradicted by our findings in the previous article in this series. Oranges were most likely not an export item on Curaçao. However, there are indications that Curaçao sailors did not take citrus fruits on board on their way back to Europe until they made a stopover in British Barbados.The peels of the Curaçao orange were preferred for their aromatic properties. The “genuine” Curaçao orange is characterized not only by its aromatic properties but also by its thin parenchyma, so that all bitter orange peels with a thin parenchyma were traded as Curaçao oranges. Nevertheless, all kinds of different bitter orange peels were often traded as curaçao orange. The confusion sometimes went so far that even lemon peel was called ” Curaçao peel “, even sweet oranges were called Curaçao oranges, Curaçao Doux or Curaçao de Paris.

Perhaps the etymology of the Curaçao orange is similar to that of the hamburger. This name derives from the term “hamburger steak” for fried minced meat, which hamburger immigrants brought to the USA in the 19th century as a tradition. [35] Such a “hamburger” bears the name of the city, but the ground meat rarely actually comes from the Hamburg area. One can imagine that in a similar way the name Curacao Orange was applied to all similar varieties of bitter orange in the trade, sometimes even to citrus peel in general.

Now that we understand what is really meant by Curaçao oranges, in the next part of this series we will turn to the spirit that was made with it and named after it.

Sources
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  26. https://archive.org/details/handbuchderheilm00oest?q=%22cortex+curassao%22 Fr. Oesterlen: Handbuch der Heilmittellehre. Tübingen, 1847.
  27. https://archive.org/details/b21778826/page/612/mode/2up?q=kurassavische G. C. Wittgenstein: Enzyclopaedie der Naturwissenschaften. II. Abtheilung. II. Theil. Handwörterbuch der  Pharmakosie des Pflanzenreichs. Breslau, 1882.
  28. https://books.google.de/books?id=RXrmMgjZ3-oC&pg=PA344&lpg=PA344&dq=curassao-aepfel&source=bl&ots=AX-wXgX4po&sig=ACfU3U2cmhuiaUIBmppufhzdVoQfo2rsnQ&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwja4sLi-ZrqAhVFyaQKHUQvDYEQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false Albert Franz Töcher: Vollständiges Lexikon der Waarenkunde in allen ihren Zweigen. Erster Band. Quedlinburg und Leipzig, 1839.
  29. https://books.google.de/books?id=IoN35K8gu10C&pg=PP7&lpg=PP7&dq=%22Conversations-Lexicon+der+kaufm%C3%A4nnischen+Wissenschaften%22+zweiter+band&source=bl&ots=hCb2g_TIMt&sig=ACfU3U2SX_2l2oK-JlZJx7hiw0SceyJi0Q&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiIl8Cl-ZrqAhWGlqQKHU3rA2QQ6AEwAHoECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=curacao&f=false Conversations-Lexicon der kaufmännischen Wissenschaften. Eine vollständige Handlungs-Encyclopädie für Bankiers, Kaufleute, Fabrikanten, Droguisten, Sensale und Geschäftsleute jeder Art. Zweiter Band, zweite Auflage. Grimma, [1846].
  30. https://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/view?query=Curacao+oranje&coll=ddd&maxperpage=50&sortfield=date&identifier=ddd:010708902:mpeg21:a0004&resultsidentifier=ddd:010708902:mpeg21:a0004 Amsterdamse courant, 10.10.1726.
  31. https://archive.org/details/traitdesliqueur00duplgoog P. Duplais: Traité de la fabrication des liqueurs et de la distillation des alcools, contenant les procédés les pluis nouveaux pour la fabrication des liqueurs françaises et étrangères; fruits à l’eau-de-vie et au sucre; sirops, conserves, eaux, esprits parfumées, vermouts et vins de liqueur; ainsi que la description complète des operations necessaires pour la distillation de tous les alcools. Tome premier. Versailes & Paris, 1855.
  32. https://books.google.bj/books?id=NzarV2NAo1MC&printsec=frontcover&hl=de&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false M. Guillaumin: Encyclopédie du commerçant. Dictionnaire du commerce et des marchandises, contenant tout ce qui concerne le commerce de terre et de mer. Tome I. Paris, 1839.
  33. https://archive.org/details/b28406989/page/n149/mode/2up?q=curaffao G. Motherby: A new medical dictionary; or general repository of physic. Containing an explanation of the terms, and a description of the various particulars relating to anatomy, physiology, physic, surgery, materia medica, chemistry, &c. &c. &c. Each article, according to its importance, being considered in every relation to which its usefulness extends in the healing art. London, 1785.
  34. https://archive.org/details/b30529657_0003/page/300/mode/2up?q=curaffao Johann Andreas Murray: Apparatus medicaminum tam simplicium quam praeparatorum et compositorum in praxeos adjumentum consideratus. Volumen tertium. Göttingen, 1784.
  35. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburger Hamburger.

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About

Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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