Tuesday, February 17, 2009
On the street where I grew up, the houses were built in what was once lemon and avocado orchards, and a few old jacaranda trees dripped their purple blooms onto the road. Our property was thick with established lemon and avocado trees, and my parents added to these wonders with kumquats, limes, tangerines, and the neighbor's persimmon tree gifted us each year with orange fruit my mom made into moist cookies. Growing up in Southern California you take these things for granted: doesn't everyone have lemons right outside their kitchen window? The scent of citrus blossoms and cut grass mixed with lemon continues to be one of my favorite smells. But I digress from the topic at hand...
Escaping Portland's cold grey winter and traveling to Southern California recently I knew kumquats were in season. I've been known to begrudgingly and infrequently pay $6/pint for kumquats here in Portland. But buying local when in the locale of their growth? A San Diego County roadside stand offered them for $2/pint, and I snatched up 3 pints of the mini orbs of tartness, and stashed them in my suitcase for travel back to the land of cold.
I knew I wanted to make marmalade: marmalade is a jam with bits of citrus peel in it, and since the sweet part of the kumquat is its peel, kumquat marmalade is puckery and sweet and sour all at the same time. Add some vanilla bean to the mix and you have a concoction of sinful wonder.
I researched different recipes and techniques both in books and online, and discovered that you don't have to use pectin in the making of this if you reserve the seeds and use them in the production of the jam since they naturally create pectin. That means the marmalade is just fruit and sugar. And speaking of sugar....in no way did I use anything close to the amount of sugar called for in most recipes. I just can't bring myself to pour that much processed sugar into the fruit. Plus, I prefer it tart. Pucker up!
Here's how it's done...
Kumquat Vanilla Marmalade
3 pints kumquats
5 cups sugar
8+ cups water
1 vanilla bean
Wash and scrub your kumquats. Get comfortable and start slicing. You want thin slices, and remove and save the seeds as you go. It may take a while. With the reserved seeds, create a cheesecloth bag and add it, the sliced kumquats and water to a large pot. Bring to a quick boil and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit overnight.
The next day, bring your pot to a quick boil, and cook until your peels are tender. About 10 minutes or so. Remove the cheesecloth bag of seeds and add in your sugar. Slice and scrape the vanilla bean insides into your pot. Stir well. Cook, while stirring, until your jam is cooked down. This may take a while. Mine took about an hour and 20 minutes or so. It may get steamy...
As the jam thickens, make sure you're stirring and not allowing it to stick to the bottom of the pan. Skim foam. You can test the jam for jelling point by putting a spoonful of the liquid onto a small plate, and setting in the freezer for a few minutes until it comes to room temperature. Turn the plate sideways to test if the liquid drips: if it's still runny at room temperature, keep cooking. If it gels and does not drip, it's done. Ladle into hot jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes 5 jelly jars + 1 pint of marmalade.