Many of us in the Co-op have been looking forward to kumquat season for several months. Unlike oranges, most lemons and grapefruits which bear fruit nearly year-round here in Los Angeles, our kumquat trees fruit just once, although a few will appear sporadically. So when two bags of kumquat appeared in the Co-op basket, we were ready. To prepare for their appearance at our culinary party, they had a nice long bath, and I guess many of us are like kumquats in that respect. However, this was a long bath in cold water, and I added a spoonful of baking soda to that water. After a scrub and another soak, it was time to hit the cutting board. Everybody gets about 1/8″ cut off of each end, both the stem and the blossom end, which often has a little black dot of floral remembrance. Fussy, yes, but these are important steps as these places can harbor unwanted bacteria.
For kumquat marmalade, the fruit was cut in half, split, and then the seeds and center core went into the pectin bag. The seeded, cored fruit was roughly chopped, and using our golden 6 cup rule (6 cups of citrus cooked with 6 cups of water until tender, add 6 cups of sugar) , we measured about 4 + cups of chopped kumquats, then added oranges prepared in the same way to measure a full 6 cups. Put the canning pot on the stove on a medium setting to get your canning jars ready. Put the fruit in your stockpot, add 6 cups of water and the tied off pectin bag. After about 40 minutes, test a piece of the rind and when it is very tender, remove the pectin bag and squeeze all that goodness back into the pot. Then add 6 cups of sugar. For a pure kumquat flavor, we did not add a vanilla bean or any other spices to the pot, just a pinch of kosher salt (by now you know this is our little Co-op secret to round out the flavor). This will take about 45 minutes to cook to the gel stage, that is, when a dab of marmalade on an ice-cold plate will wrinkle when pushed with a fingertip. Allow 1/4″ headspace in the jars, and process for 10 minutes.
Preserved kumquats were washed and the ends tipped, then simply poked through with a toothpick so each fruit was pierced twice. Start with 4 cups of whole, prepared kumquats. Cover the fruit with cold water, bring it to a boil for a few minutes, then drain and rinse; do this three times. After the third blanching, return the kumquats to the pan and add 2 cups of sugar and a cup of water, and a small cinnamon stick along with a small pinch of kosher salt. The fruit is already tender, now you want this syrup to permeate it and preserve it. Gently boil for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit starts to get translucent. The preserving process will finish in the jar. Ladle into prepared canning jars leaving 1/4″ head space, then process 10 minutes. Let the jars cure for 2 weeks before opening – this is important.
Candied kumquats were prepared similarly to the preserved kumquats, but they were not blanched. 6 cups of pierced whole fruits and an additional 3 cups of seeded, cored roughly sliced clementines were put in a pot with 6 1/2 cups of water, 5 cups of sugar, 2 large cinnamon sticks, 9 white cardamom pods, 1/2 of a whole nutmeg in pieces, and a healthy large pinch of kosher salt. This was simmered for 5 hours, then left to sit (overnight) for another 10 hours. It was brought to a simmer again, then ladled into prepared jars with 1/4″ head space and processed for 10 minutes. This will not yield many jars as it greatly reduces, but it is rich and intensely flavored.
Kumquat marmalade, preserved kumquats, and candied kumquats.