Homemade Kumquat Marmalade
What's a kumquat, you're wondering?
Kumquats, or cumquats, are a citrus that resembles an orange, but are way smaller, even smaller than a mandarin.
The fruit is slightly bigger than a healthy olive, actually. The kumquat tree is of Chinese origin; as a matter of fact, in Spanish these are called "Chinese oranges".
Picking up the Kumquat
I've never seen this fruit sold in any market or store, maybe because it's really not very fit for consumption after picked from the tree, because its taste is on the sour side, even when it's quite mature. Precisely for this reason, this fruit is ideal for cooking, it goes well with meats and, of course, to produce the typical sweet-sour "orange marmalade".
I bought a kumquat tree more for decoration and to enlighten my garden than anything else. I just found the little "orange tree", with the little toy oranges, rather fun and pretty to look at.
But, surprise surprise, the tree had its own agenda, and no sooner was it sitting half on the shade, half under the sun, than it started growing flowers and then fruits as if there was no tomorrow.
So I eventually decided I had to do something with so many little kumquats. Before I picked them, there were in excess of 100 little orange guys in the tree. I picked about 55 for the marmalade.
The tree, when I bought it, measured about 40 centimeters in height, and came with some 30 kumquats. Today it's about 90 centimeters, and up until yesterday, overflowed with more than 100 fruits.
The following is what I used:
- Around 50 kumquats
- One glass of white sugar
- Half a glass of rum
This isn't scientific, one can use more sugar if one prefers the marmalade sweeter, or a bit more rum to give it a bit more spirit.
These ingredients render a marmalade that's on the sour side, but not make-you-squint sour, just how I like my "orange marmalade".
Note: Don't worry if you don't get the sugar right on the first go, you'll have the chance to add some more once the mix is cooking, as explained below.
It's much recommended that you drop the slices into the same dish where you'll cook the marmalade. The reason is that the juices that will come from the fruit, plus the sugar and the rum when it all macerates, will be kept in the same container and you won't lose a drop of it when it's time for cooking.
Preparing the marmalade mix
Wash the kumquats clean with water. No need to dry them too much, a bit of extra water is good for the mix.
Cut the kumquats into either round slices or segments. I did some of each.
I recommend you use a very sharp knife so that the slices or segments are very thin. This way, your marmalade will have thin peel slices that are perfectly manageable on a toast.
Alternatively, if you like or don't mind to find peel spots that are bigger than standard, then it doesn't matter much how thin or thick you cut your kumquat slices.
Taking off the pits
While you slice the kumquats, you'll need to take care of the most cumbersome or, rather, time consuming part of this recipe: Taking out the miniature pits.
I admit, the little fellows got on my nerves, and I'll also admit I apparently didn't do a top-notch job of it, as I could realize afterwards when the mix was cooking.
If you miss some pits, you'll have a second chance to go fishing when you're cooking the marmalade.
Mixing and macerating
When the kumquats are sliced and the pits are off, add the sugar on top, then the rum, and mix until you don't see any traces of sugar left.
Cover the dish with a cloth and put on the fridge for at least 5 hours. This will macerate the kumquats. If you aren't in a rush, I recommend you macerate overnight, 12 hours or so.
This is so that the sugar and rum really mix with the fruit and lend it their flavors. Cooking the mix after a longer maceration period is said to render best taste.
Whatever period you decide to macerate the fruit, once you take the mix out of the fridge, you're ready to cook it.
When you reach at least 40 minutes of simmering, you can taste the mix and decide if it needs more sugar. If it feels too sour for your taste, add one or two spoons of sugar, mix, and let it simmer again.
How to cook the marmalade
The stove will do it. Bring the mix to a boiling point, and when it boils, lower the fire to simmer for at least 45 minutes.
Personally, I had it simmering close to one hour, but I believe that depends greatly on how tender the kumquat was to begin with. Because I used a mixture of younger and more mature fruits, I needed a bit longer on the stove.
While it simmers, use a wood spoon to turn the mixture around every 10 minutes or so, to prevent it from adhering to the dish.
NOTE: At these times, it's likely that you'll see pits floating around, so here's your chance to fish them out!
Your marmalade is ready to store
After the mix has cooked for a period between 45 and 60 minutes, and it's to your sugary taste, it's ready to store.
While it's still hot, pour it into a clean and very dry jar. You can use as many smaller jars as you like as well. The important factor about the container is that it seals completely so that the marmalade will last.
Remember, this is homemade, no preserves at all, so a lid that closes hermetically is fundamental.
After pouring the marmalade into the jar, let it cool and then close the lid. And you're done!
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