Well it appears to be kumquat season around here again. My parents’ kumquat tree has sagging branches from the hundreds of pounds of kumquats just waiting to be picked. I am the one who is always tasked with turning the bounty into delicious kumquat treats (but I also always seem eat so many of them my tongue starts to tingle. You would think I would learn, but they are just so good!) I actually have no idea when the official kumquat season is, since my parents’ tree seems to ripen in different seasons different years. For us kumquat season is whenever the tree says so. And that is now.
While I usually cook most of the kumquats into various marmalades or experiment with fun recipes like kumquat pate de fruit or marshmallows, I always make sure to make a few batches of sweet candied kumquats. They are wonderful to have around as a quick treat or as a component in a more complicated dessert. In addition, candied kumquats are like glistening gems, the candying process makes them so pretty, which makes them a great gift. When I lived in Israel I used to buy candied kumquats in large quantities from the shuk because they reminded me of home (I spent a lot of time in the gym that year to offset my sugar consumption!) and now whenever I eat them I think of Israel. Funny how the associations of a food can change like that with time.
I have tried many different methods of candying kumquats over the years and my favorite are the Chinese style candied kumquats. They come out with a bit more complex finished flavor and the texture is perfect. The method is a bit more of a hassle than some of the other methods of candying, it requires multiple heating and cooling periods. I always double the recipe because the candy keeps well. To me it is worth it to get the perfect kumquat but I realize that my patience for fussing with candy making may be more extreme than most so I am including an easier method as well. Either way, the candied kumquats are sure to be a huge hit.
About 2 pounds fresh kumquats
Boiling water as needed
2 cups (15 oz) sugar
2 cups (16 oz) filtered water
A good pinch of salt
A good pinch of cream of tartar
More granulated sugar for sanding the candies
Wash the kumquats carefully and discard any that don't look perfect. The ends of the stems can be left on the fruit if they are trimmed very short. Prick the kumquats all over (at least 10 times) with a pin or skewer. Place the kumquats in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan, and remove it from the heat. Allow the water to cool down a bit (at least half an hour), pour off the water, cover the kumquats with fresh cool water, and bring the pot to a boil again. Boil and rest the kumquats three times. (This can be done up to two days in advance. Refrigerate the cooked kumquats.)
Place the kumquats back in the pan, add the sugar, 2 cups water, salt, and cream of tartar, bring the pot to a full boil, and then immediately lower the heat to very low, so that there is practically no movement in the pan. The kumquats will be very tender at this point and will easily fall apart if cooked at too high temperature. Slowly cook the fruit for about an hour, or until the fruit looks translucent and dark. Cover the pan and let the fruit sit overnight in the syrup.
Bring the syrup to a boil, cover the pan, and turn off the heat; let the kumquats and syrup return to room temperature. Do this three times until the kumquats look like balls of pure amber.
Thoroughly drain the kumquats (reserve the syrup for something else; see the note below) and let them dry on a cake rack overnight. If they are still sticky dry for an additional day. Place about a cup of sugar on a rimmed plate or tray and roll a few of the sticky kumquats at a time in the sugar until they are completely coated. Place the sugared kumquats in an airtight container with extra sugar between them and keep in a cool, dark place. Use while still plump and fresh. To keep for longer store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Note: The syrup can be used over pancakes or waffles, like marmalade, as a flavoring for sparkling water, or in cocktails. Use any broken kumquats for cooking and save the pretty ones to serve with tea.
Recipe adapted from Madam Huang's Kitchen
1.5 kilo (about 3 pounds) of kumquats, rinsed and patted dry
6 cups (48 oz) water
4 cups (30 oz) sugar
a pinch of sea salt
Use a small needle and poke a couple holes into each kumquat.
Add all the ingredients into a large pot. Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the diameter of the pot. Place the paper over the fruit and liquid, and put a plate or the lid of a smaller pot over the paper to hold the fruit down under the liquid.
Set the pot on the stove over medium high heat. When the water begins to bubble, getting close to boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and continue to cook for two hours.
At the end of the two hours, the kumquats should be deep orange and completely translucent. Remove from heat, discard the plate and the parchment paper. Skim off any bubble or scum. Close the lid and let the fruit steep in the syrup overnight or at least 6 hours.
The next morning, use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the pot into a bowl. Set the pot back on the stove over high heat and cook until reduced by half, about 15-30 minutes. When the syrup is reduced to the consistency you like, turn the heat off, and gently add the candied fruits back into the pot. Bring the content of the pot back to a boil once again and turn the heat off.
At this point you can just fill the candied fruits and syrup into clean jars. They will keep in the fridge for a long time. If you want to make them shelf-stable, use canning or mason jars and follow the manufacture’s instruction to properly sterilize and seal the jars.
Recipe adapted from Chez Pim