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:





Yeah, it is gettin’ busy! Peaches, apricots; and have you seen any plums?

Barnaby dropped off a bag of aromatic white peaches from a backyard in North Hollywood, and Mimi dropped off a bag of local San Fernando valley apricots, along with some lemons and her sweet oranges (the inspiration for our Co-op Spiced Oranges).

The background that is a tea towel with a map of the Paris Metro.

We are gearing up for all the stone fruits, but it looks like Don’s Santa Rosa plum tree is taking the year off.  His Blenheim apricot tree has just a minimal crop as well.  Be on the lookout for apricot and plum trees, as when these are producing, it is prodigious.  Let your friends or neighbors know they can avoid filling their green cans, staining their driveways and sidewalks, and deter unwelcome wildlife (coyotes) by harvesting the fruit promptly. The Co-op will send people to harvest for them – and they will receive some nice preserves to enjoy year-round.  Win, win!

Candied ginger and walnut praline – vegan candy

While we were making a batch of passion fruit preserves with fruit Shan had frozen, I had also started a pan of candied ginger.  I had boiled the ginger to soften it,then was slowly cooking it with sugar and a little of the ginger cooking water. As long as I was in the kitchen and had an available burner, this is a fairly undemanding procedure.  We ended up doing both passion fruit preserves as well as jelly, and the ginger went a little long in the pan.  When Marina was placing the pieces on a rack, she looked at the leftover crystallizing cooking syrup in the pan and said, “this looks like candy”.  It looked like praline, as it was firm and grainy.  She had the brilliant notion to put some walnuts in it and spread it, so we reheated it to soften and partially liquefy with the walnuts, then spread it on a greased cookie sheet. When Shan, who is not a praline fan, tried it and pronounced it delicious, we knew we had a winner.  The little pieces of spicy ginger mingle nicely with the more neutral flavor and crunch of the nuts, both of which keep this from being cloyingly sweet.   Plus, since we never used cream or butter, just long slow cooking of sugar (and ginger), this is a vegan treat.  Next time, we’ll make more!