Ever since I watched the first episode of Miss Fisher, I knew I had to try my hand at kumquat marmalade. I promise I won’t use the poisoned sugar.
A kumquat is a small, sour citrus fruit from South Asia. It is orange, about ½-¾ of an inch and almost nothing but skin and pips—2-5 per fruit. What little pulp it has is fairly dry. Some of the recipes, that I looked at, make up for this by adding lemon orange juice.
I have gotten very particular in my marmalade making. These days, I usually use only the juice, the zest, and a bit of sugar. Adding any other juices would make this a mixed citrus marmalade, not kumquat marmalade. To add liquid bulk, I decided to add only some filtered water.
Note: Several other recipes add spices, but for this first attempt I will only be using the fruit and sugar.
There is so little to a kumquat that zesting the rind was out of the question. I would have to go back to my original Christmas marmalade recipe and use the whole fruit. However, I have come to like fine shreded marmalade—rather than chunky—so I decided that I would slice the fruit very finely.
Note: After quartering and removing the pips, I laid two quarters together and made 12-15 slices—over the ¾ inch of the fruit this made for very fine shreds of rind.
Karl’s Kumquat Marmalade
½ lb. kumquats (makes about 1 cup of fruit pulp)
2½ cups filtered water
2¼ cups sugar
1. Rinse the fruit and take one small slice to remove the stem end.
2. Quarter each fruit and remove any pips.
Tip: It is easier to remove the whole pips, than to try to fish out pip bits later. After you quarter the fruit most of the pips will be obvious.
Note: Do not worry too much about missing a pip. If you slice carefully you will feel the edge of the knife snag on a hidden pip. Pull the blade of the knife directly away from the fruit and the snagged pip will come right out. Toss the pip and continue slicing.
3. Lay two quarters together—cut edge down—and make very fine slices
Tip: I was making 12-15 cuts per half fruit.
Note: This is very picky and labor intensive method. It took me almost an hour to process 28 kumquats this way. Some recipes simplify the process by only quartering the fruit or slicing the whole kumquat.
4. Put the fruit pulp in a non-reactive pot and add 2½ cups of water.
Tip: Never put acidic fruit in an anodized aluminum pot. I learned that the hard way, when I lost my best pot.
5. Bring the pot just to a boil, cover it, and remove it from the heat.
6. Set the pot aside for 24 hours.
Tip: This is a trick I learned from years of making orange marmalade. If you proceed instantly to making your jam, it will taste slightly bitter. This quick heating and long resting breaks down the bitter compounds and give you a mellower, fruitier, marmalade.
Note: Before you reheat the fruit mixture, pour it into a large measuring cup. The process of heating and standing will have some amount of liquid loss—as much as half a cup.
7. Prepare you jars.
Tip: This recipe fills one 12 oz. jar and one 8 oz. jar.
Note: Put the jars in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the pot to s boil and sterilize the jars for 5-10 minutes. After you turn off the heat, put the lids in the hot water for a few minutes.
8. Lay the jars upside down on a clean dish towel, at the ready.
9. Return the pot to the stove and bring it to a high simmer.
Tip: This is a fine tuned thing. You want the heat high enough that the marmalade jells in a reasonable time, but not so high that it boils over or scorches.
Note: When you use a high heat you must almost constantly stir and scrape the bottom of the pot. I have drifted to using a lower heat, which I do not have to watch as closely. This takes more time, but is less stressful. It usually takes my marmalade 45 minutes to an hour to jell.
10. Stir in the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, 3-4 minutes.
11. Continue to simmer, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the marmalade jells.
Tip: After about half an hour, scoop up a teaspoon of the marmalade and lay it on a small plate with an ice cube—this cools the plate and speeds up the jelling of the test sample. After 4-5 minutes pour the marmalade back into the pot. If the sample has started to jell it will come off the spoon in a wide sheet—instead of a thin stream.
Note: When you stop cooking the mixture is a matter of personal choice. If you jar the marmalade is soon as it starts to jell you will have a soft runny marmalade. While this is easier to spread, it may leak juice and separate over time. Cooking the mixture for another 5-15 minutes past where it start to jell will give you a firmer marmalade that is shelf stable.
Warning: Be careful! At this point, the cooking marmalade is basically sweet napalm, it will stick and burn you badly if you get any on your skin.
12. Once the marmalade is ready, pour it into the jars.
Note: One of the most useful tools for this is a canning funnel.
13. Put on the lids and set the jars aside to cool.
14. Refrigerate after opening.