Kumquats, red chilis and cocoa nibs – oh my!

Cyd and I harvested 30 pounds of kumquats from a tree in Pasadena, and with 30 pounds, there is room for creativity.  Beata gave the Co-op a large bag of organic cocoa nibs and came over to help us do some preserving.  The jars, the steaming pots of water, and the fruit all reminded Beata of her childhood in Poland, watching her mother put those lovely seasonal strawberries and cherries in jars.  Even hearing the ‘ping’ of jars cooling down evoked memories.

Kumquats with cocoa nibs and chili pepper, nearly at the canning stage

Kumquats with cocoa nibs and chili pepper, nearly at the canning stage

But I don’t think anyone has memories quite like this flavor.

Prepared halved kumquats were cooked with cocoa nibs.  Once softened, chili pepper flakes were stirred in and then sugar was added.  This preserve is moderately sweet, spicy/hot, and has that bitter richness from the cocoa nibs to balance out the acidity.  It also has a terrific contrast texture, smooth jelly and crunchy nibs.   I really want to stir in soy sauce and dip dumplings in this one, or maybe spread some on a warm tortilla.  What will you do?

The recipe is on the ‘Recipes’ tab, Kumquat Chili Pepper Preserves with Cocoa Nibs’.  The name may be pragmatic, but the flavors are a flight of fancy.

Quince jelly, chunky quince preserves, and quince pectin for later

These quince are from a farmers market, because the one neighborhood quince tree was cut down, sadly.  I am hopeful that our Co-op will find another quince tree, they are often neglected and misunderstood. Quince look something like a knobby pear or a misshapen apple, with an aroma that combines the best of those two fruits with a distinctive, elusive, spicy rose fragrance.  Some people like to simply keep a ripe quince in a room to subtly scent the air.
I did keep these for a week in the fruit basket so they could reach their full potential.  Once they were fully ripe, I used them to make chunky preserves, jelly, and a jar of fruit pectin to help future Co-op fruits less fortunate in that department.  Quince have a very high pectin content,  as well as a lower water content, so your final yield is closer to original measures. Ten quince were scrubbed thoroughly.  The peels and cores were used to make a jar of fruit pectin, the cooked fruit solids made a chunky preserve, and the strained liquid made jelly.  Lemons were used not only for the acidulated water bath, but added to the pectin, jelly and preserves.  The peel from those lemons was used to start a batch of limoncello.  Ten quince and six lemons  with 5 cups of sugar yielded one large jar of pectin (about 2 cups), one pint of jelly,  three and a half pints of preserves, and one 750 ml bottle of limoncello.   Extracting every bit of flavor and pectin, this was all that was left over:

 

 

 

 

Nectarines and sweet basil, the lemons introduced them

Cyd harvested nectarines from a friend’s garden, just north of Mulholland.  He also brought over a bouquet of fresh basil, and Jackie G dropped off a bag of her superb lemons.  OK, that’s a jam right there in the basket.  The nectarines were chopped, the lemons were prepared in the new standard Co-op method (scrub, take off 1/4″ slice from each end and discard, then halve, core, seed and cut each half into thirds, then slice as thinly as humanly -where is that darn robot?-possible) and the chopped fruit was brought to a boil with stalks of fresh basil, and is now maturing and softening.  In about 8 hours, we will add sugar ( 1 c sugar to 2 cups of chopped fruit), bring to a boil to reach gel stage, then can.  Because we left the peel on the nectarines and used the whole lemon, the pectin is already there.  Plus, the only thing that goes into compost are the tips of the sliced lemons, as the nectarine pits will be dried and filed in the Co-op seed library.The aroma is delicious.

Local, organically grown nectarines, basil and lemons (the orange did not make the preserving list)

so happy together; nectarines, basil and lemons