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Farm-Fresh Mission Citrus Sweetens Local Cuisine

Mission, Texas Citrus Grove
Mission, Texas Citrus Grove

If you get anywhere near the vicinity of Ferrell’s Pit in Mission, Texas, the aroma will lure you inside. And even if you weren’t hungry before, you’ll find yourself ordering smoked brisket, barbecued pork ribs, or one of the other delectable Ferrell’s specialties, such as Polish sausage or barbecued chicken.

Everything is cooked over mesquite on the pit out back. And except for the tortillas, it is all homemade. But the thing Ferrell's is most famous for is owner Louise Mainord's grapefruit pie. It’s made with locally grown grapefruit, the restaurant's special homemade glaze and topped with whipped cream.

And while Ferrell's definitely adds a special touch to those pies, it's nature that makes them so sweet. Mission is known for growing some of the best citrus fruits in the world. In fact, Mission is the site of the Rio Grande Valley's first citrus groves.

When John H. Shary came to the Valley in 1912, he saw a world of possibilities in the small local citrus market. He initially purchased 16,000 acres of brush-land, constructed an irrigation system and worked with other leading citrus producers to establish Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange. Hailed as the “father of the Texas citrus industry,” Shary built the area’s first commercial citrus-packing plant in 1923.

Citrus continues to play an essential role in both Mission’s economic development as well as local cuisine.

Citrus Salsa

1 Texas (Rio) Red grapefruit

1 large Texas (navel) orange

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

1 cup diced green, red, and yellow bell pepper

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

3 tablespoons chopped red onion

3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 ½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Peel, section and dice grapefruit and orange. Combine all ingredients. Drain juice before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

Grapefruit Pie

glaze

1 cup grapefruit juice

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

3 Rio Red grapefruit

8 ounces whipped cream

Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup grapefruit juice and ½ cup sugar to a boil. Mix ½ cup sugar and 4 tablespoons cornstarch together. Add to boiling liquid, whisking quickly until thickened. Spread ½ the glaze on the bottom of a baked crust. Pile sections from 3 Rio Red grapefruit onto the glaze. Spread on the other half of the glaze and top with whipped cream.

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