A Kumquat tree in front of your house is a fine thing indeed. Beautiful tree, exquisite smell when its flowering, and a festive display of orange oval orbs when its fruiting. But what can you do with a little kumquat besides picking one off the tree and popping it in your mouth? How can you celebrate the abundant good nature of a kumquat tree when the winter is on its way out in Southern California? You make marmalade.
I’m not going to present anything original here because there are others who have done it before me and have done it well.
If you are looking for something traditional, tried and true…
David Lebovitz’s Kumquat Marmalade
About three 1-cup (250ml) jars
Many of the little rings of kumquats will, unfortunately, come apart as you cook the marmalade. The reward, however, is gorgeous jars of tangy marmalade that you’ll be happy to spread on your morning toast or serve with a bit of cheese after dinner. I served mine with Comté, but a nice goat cheese or another nutty mountain cheese, like Gruyère, would pair nicely with it.
It takes a bit of patience to slice and pluck out all the seeds from the kumquats, but you can get 2 to 3 jars of marmalade for your efforts. I use a small serrated knife to slice off the stem end, then start slicing the kumquats crosswise, until I get close to the center. Finally, I stick the tip of the knife into the area where the seeds are and slip them into a small bowl. Because the seeds are rather large, any that you miss you can usually find just by doing a little scanning of your pile of sliced kumquats.
I use oval Nagami kumquats, which are more puckery than the round Meiwi kumquats, which you sometimes come across. Do try to get organic or unsprayed fruit from your local market or natural food store. The kirsch is optional, but it does nicely round out the flavor of the marmalade. You can substitute another liquor, such as gin, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, light rum, or a dash of brandy. Or it can be omitted, if you wish.
- 2 lemons, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded, and very thinly sliced
- 1 pound (450g) kumquats, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
- (Reserve the seeds from the lemon and kumquats)
- 5 1/2 cups (1,3l) water
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- pinch of salt
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon kirsch or other liquor
1. Put the lemon slices in a large non-reactive pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lemons are translucent, about 5 minutes. Drain. (Discard the water.)
2. Put the blanched lemons back in the pot. Tie the seeds from the lemons and kumquats securely in a piece of cheesecloth or étamine, and add the seed sack to the pot along with the sliced kumquats and water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let stand 24 hours.
3. The next day, put a small plate in the freezer. (Optional: If you have a candy thermometer, you can clip it to the side of the pot.)
4. Add the sugar and salt to the pot, and cook the marmalade for 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat. Remove the bag of seeds and when it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the seeds in the cheesecloth using your hands or place it in a ladle and press it with the back of a soup spoon (being careful not to break the fabric and release the seeds) over the jam pot to so the pectin goes directly into the marmalade mixture.
5. Continue cooking until it has reached the jelling point, about 220ºF (104ºC) degrees, if using a candy thermometer. To test the marmalade, turn off the heat and put a small amount on the plate that has been chilled in the freezer and briefly return it to the freezer. Check it in a few minutes; it should be slightly jelled and will wrinkle a bit when you slide your finger through it. If not, continue to cook until it wrinkles slightly on the chilled plate when you nudge it.
6. Remove from heat, then stir in the kirsch (if using), and ladle the mixture into clean jars.
Note: I store my jams and marmalades in a cool place, often the refrigerator if not planning to use them within a few weeks. if you wish to can or preserve them, you can check out these canning tips.
and if you are looking for something with a little kick….
- 1 lb kumquats
- 5 cups water
- 1 medium habanero pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
- 3 ½ cups sugar (regular white cane sugar)
- Day 1. Slice kumquats cross-wise into rings, popping out and reserving seeds as you go. Place seeds in a tea ball or cheesecloth bundle. Add kumquats, water, seeds, and minced habanero to a medium stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Remove and discard seeds. Return fruit mixture to the preserving pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a boil and continue to boil over high heat, stirring only as necessary to prevent sticking, until marmalade reaches the set point, about 15 – 20 minutes. I used the frozen plate test and stopped cooking at 218 degrees F.
- Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars to ¼-inch head space. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Once jars are out of the water bath and have cooled for approximately 30 minutes (still very warm to the touch) turn upside down and shake gently to distribute kumquat peel evenly through the jelly. Return jars to upright position and allow to cool undisturbed overnight.
Yields about 5 cups.
- Batch #1 was made as above; for Batch #2, I used three tiny (about equivalent to two medium) red habaneros, and increased the sugar to 4 cups. This resulted in a quite spicy marmalade, more of a hot pepper jelly with a kumquat under note.
- Disturbing the processed jars after they come out of the canner can sometimes inhibit or interfere with set: in this case, I wanted kumquat peel to be evenly distributed throughout the preserve, and in neither batch did the shaking seem to have an impact on the final set.
- Red habaneros can be harder to find than their orange cousins, so of course you can use orange: I just liked the color contrast of the red. The original recipe stipulates a halved habanero that is removed prior to cooking; for a milder preserve, go that route.
STORE- Canned, store in a cool dark spot for up to 1 year.
And if you don’t have tons of kumquats to work with, try this small batch recipe from Urban Preserving….
Kumquats aren’t like other citrus fruit. Instead of having a tart rind and a sweet interior, they keep their sugar in the skin and have their pucker on the inside. It took me years to realize that the best way to eat them is to pop them into your mouth whole and take a big bite. That way, you blend the flavors into a single, delicious marriage.
If eating whole kumquats isn’t your thing, don’t think that there isn’t a place for them in your life. They just happen to make a luscious, if slightly energy-intensive, marmalade. Because they demand a lot in the chopping department, I find that it’s best to keep your kumquat marm batches tidy and contained. That makes them downright perfect for my every-so-often Urban Preserving category.
Take one pound of kumquats and wash them. Pick them over well to make sure that you don’t have any that are turning to mush (I bought mine at an Asian grocery story, tied up in a mesh bag, and the ones in the center were liquifying). Cut off the stem end and slice the kumquat into quarters.
When all the kumquats are quartered, use a sharp paring knife to cut away the inner membrane and any seeds (reserve these! They will provide our pectin). This leaves you with a small piece of rind with some pulp still attached. Then lay these stripped quarters rind side up and chop them into ribbons (I warned you that it was energy-intensive).
When all the chopping is done, you should have about two cups of chopped kumquat bits, and a scant cup of reserved seeds and membrane. Place the seeds and membrane in the center of a square of cheesecloth and tie it up well so that nothing can escape.
Place the chopped kumquat in a large pot with 2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used plain white sugar, but you could easily use unrefined cane sugar. Just know that your finished product will be a bit darker). Pop the bundle of seeds and membranes in there too.
Bring to a boil and cook for 15-25 minutes, until it reaches 220°F. The wider your pot, the faster it will cook (I used a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset, and my cooking time was right around 20 minutes). Once it has reached temperature and seems quite thick, remove marmalade from heat. Funnel into two prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a small batch canning pot for 10 minutes.