Let’s cook “Kumquat Marmalade.” And just what are kumquats? These tiny edible “oranges” pack some punch. My mother-in-law has a backyard kumquat bush which is loaded with fruit this year. You eat the small, whole citrus-type fruit, including the rind, spitting out the numerous seeds found in the pulp. Kumquats are about the size of a cherry tomato and taste like a pungent orange. I find that eating the entire fruit is a little overpowering. Instead, I made a small batch of “Kumquat Marmalade.” It was was delicious, especially when served with cream cheese and crackers. Making marmalade — one jar at a time — is quite easy and not difficult at all.
The kumquat is a citrus-type fruit which ripens in November through March here in the South. The fruit is grown from Florida to Texas and also in California. Kumquats are the most hardy citrus fruit grown in South Louisiana, much hardier than oranges and lemons. They can survive moderate freezes. The bright orange fruit can be oval, round to oblong and is about the size of a grape.
Kumquats grow on evergreen bushes or small trees and have fragrant blossoms. I picked these kumquats from my mother-in-law’s Houston bush in December while they were still partially green and let them ripen on my warm kitchen counter until they became bright orange. As you can see, this small bush was loaded with fruit. Over time, this bush will grow into a small tree; can’t wait to see the harvest then.
Kumquats are native to China dating in the literature to the 12th century. They are grown in other Asian countries, especially Japan, and also Taiwan, India and the Philippines. They were brought to London in 1846 by Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist, and then to the US around 1850. Kumquats are considered to be “good luck and prosperity” in relation to the Asia Lunar New Year. In Japan, the trees are commonly grown as bonsai, planted in doorways for good luck.
Cooking with Kumquats
The entire kumquat is edible, including the rind — although many folks spit out the numerous seeds in the pulp. Kumquats have a pronounced, tangy orange-type flavor. They make great chutney, jam and marmalade with a bright color and wonderful flavor. Kumquats can be candied, pickled and made into sauces. These jams pair well with a sauce for meats, including pork, and salmon. Actually, when making marmalade and jam, the kumquat seeds contain pectin which, when tied in a cheesecloth bag, can add to the thickening of the jam. Kumquats, when sliced, can be added to salads and salsas. Increase the heat by adding onions and jalapeno peppers. Kumquats can be baked into muffins and pies or infused into mixed drinks. I found a recipe in a vintage Bon Appetit magazine for “Kumquat Jubilee” made by an American chef living in Japan. The “jubilee” recipe contained kumquats in a rich custard. So creativity is the limit.
Recipe for a Very Small Batch of “Kumquat Marmalade”
I brought home only 20 kumquats from my mother-in-law’s small bush. This was 2 cups and just enough to make a very small batch of marmalade. Since making the marmalade is time consuming, this turned out to be an advantage. Making one jar at a time turned out to be not difficult at all. I’m in favor in making things easy; especially for recipes which appear to be difficult. Plus, I discovered a “trick” which helped simplify the process.
My recipe includes only three ingredients: kumquats, sugar and lemon juice. I’ve made several other kumquat marmalade recipes which include additional ingredients — onions, jalapenos — but like my simple, pure recipe.
To make my recipe, you need to remove the seeds and pulp/pith. I discovered a very simple “trick” to doing this process. I cut the kumquat in half, lengthwise (similar to slicing an apple). Then I used a small melon baller to remove the pith and seeds. This kitchen gadget has a sharp edge. It allows you to rotate and scoop out each kumquat half. It was quick and easy to remove the pitch and seeds. Yeah!. Some recipes instruct you to place the seeds in a small cheesecloth bag which is cooked with the marmalade to add pectin. I skipped this step; my marmalade was quite thick without the added pectin.
The next step in making marmalade is to cut all the halves into thin slivers. Add the slivers to sugar and water; let them set an hour.
The final step is to cook the kumquats in the sugar syrup to make the marmalade. Add the kumquat/sugar syrup to a medium-sized sauce pan and gently boil until the syrup thickens, about half an hour. During this step, it is best not to stir the syrup. I used a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the syrup. It should be about 220 degrees F. Remove from the heat and pour into an 8-ounce (1/2 pint) sterile jar. Add a sterile seal and ring. Store in refrigerator. While you can sterilize the marmalade in a canner (boil 10 minutes), I wouldn’t do this step for just one jar.
If you don’t have a thermometer, the syrup should be thick enough to made a line when a wood spoon is stirred through the syrup.
Here’s the marmalade which has a sweet, tangy orange flavor. It is delicious. According to my taste-tester husband, this is as good as any orange marmalade. If you’ve never made marmalade; this might be a good recipe to try. One jar is manageable. It is rewarding to be a home cook with the current “farm to table” popularity. Enjoy.
A Very Small Batch of Kumquat Marmalade
- 2 cups kumquats (about 20 kumquats) to yield 1 cup slivered kumquats
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Instructions and Steps:
- Wash the kumquats. Slice each kumquat in half lengthwise.
- Use a small melon baller to scoop out the pith and seeds of each half, discarding the pith and seeds. Cut each kumquat half into thin slivers.
- Place the kumquat slivers into a glass bowl (or other non-metallic bowl). Stir in sugar, water and lemon juice. Let set one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer to medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Then lower heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Do not stir.
- When mixture thickens and kitchen thermometer reaches 220 degrees F, remove from heat. (if you do not have a kitchen thermometer, stir the kumquat syrup with a wooden spoon. If the syrup makes a line so you can see the bottom of the saucepan, the syrup is thick enough.).
- Pour into a sterilized 8-oz (1/2 pint) jar. Add sterile seal and ring.
- Store in refrigerator. If desired, process in water bath of canner, boiling 10 minutes.
Here is my mother-in-law’s kumquat “bush.” It was planted just a few years ago. Over time, it will grow to be a small tree.