"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Season: A little something tart

I first tried kumquats last spring, at a nearby market.  I'd seen these funny little guys around before, a few times, but had no idea what you were meant to do with them.  So, I swallowed my pride (I'm learning this helps on many occasions, especially with food questions!), and asked the woman there how to prepare them.  She popped one in her mouth, and said:  "Like so!"  Devin and I each tried one, decided they were the perfect balance of insanely tart and stunningly sweet, all in one little package, and so took some home.

This week, they popped up at Trader Joe's, and despite the fact that I doubt they were exactly local (oops), I bought a pint-sized box.  I'm guessing that because these were trucked a fair distance, they weren't quite the luscious bite of heaven I recalled from last year.  It was a bit like biting into a lemon, not quite that sour, but close.  And after watching my friend's two year old daughter, Haley, wince and spit one out, I figured these were going to go to waste if I didn't do something else with them.

And thus, Kumquat Marmalade.  I looked through my cookbooks for a recipe, but to no avail.  I looked all over online, and found several, but many needed to sit overnight, to develop the pectin from the seeds, and whatnot.  No time for that, friends!  I had decided to have it for dinner, with some homemade bread, and goat cheese, and I was not to be stopped in my mission!

So, here's what I came up with:  (Note:  measurements are approximate, a common rule of thumb with jams is to measure the amount of prepared fruit, and use the same amount of sugar.  Thus, a cup of prepared fruit would call for a cup of sugar.  However, this felt a little excessive to me, and I didn't want to kill the tartness completely, and we were having the marmalade for dinner, not dessert...sooooo...I had about 1 1/4 cups prepared fruit, and used a rather heaped 1/2 cup of sugar.  Perfect.)

Quick Kumquat Marmalade

Thinly slice the ends off the kumquats, then turn it on its (now flat) end, and slice in half, longwise.  With the tip of a paring knife, pop out the seeds, and if you're so inclined, slice out the middle white pith.  (I started to do so, but it was too fiddly, so couldn't be bothered.)

You can either cut these even smaller, or if you're feeling a little Saturday afternoon laziness like myself, just toss them into the food processor.  Cut the peel off an orange (I used a tangelo, I think), and segment the fruit out with your knife, between the pith.  Here's a helpful how-to, if my paltry directions just aren't cutting it for you:  http://freshcatering.blogspot.com/2007/04/how-to-supreme-segment-orange.html  Toss the segmented orange in with the kumquats, and pulse it a few times, until the fruit is somewhat chopped, not pureed.

Place the prepared citrus fruit into a suitably sized pan, add your sugar (I used a bit less than half the amount of sugar to fruit, see above note), and the juice of half a lemon to 1 cup of fruit. You may spot a few seeds in your jam at this point, but don't worry about it.  I'm sure they're adding a little of that natural pectin to thicken the jam, and if not, you can't even taste them, so let it go.  This is quick marmalade, after all, folks.

Turn heat to medium, and bring to something between a boil and a simmer.  Basically, it's bubbling away, but you don't have jam splatters all over yourself or the stove.  Stir it frequently, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  After 10 to 15 minutes, it should start thickening.  When you run a spoon through the mixture, it will leave a stripe in the pan, and won't immediately close back together.  Think mini "Parting of the Red Sea" here.  (I know, I know.  Ridiculous and sacrilegious.  Just trying to give you a visual!)  Remove from heat, and let cool.  The jam will further thicken upon standing.

This will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, or in the freezer, for a few months.

Get your delicious, fresh loaves of bread...

(I know, a little shameless self-promotion, but seriously, this bread keeps getting better!)

A little goat cheese, or even cream cheese...

And that's it!  

As my mister said, this "rides the line between sweet and savory perfectly."  Well said, mister.


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