If you have been reading this blog for a while, you've probably noticed a couple tasty bits, recurrent themes of sorts when it comes to my eating and cooking habits. First of all, that I am passionate about citrus fruits.
Hand me a juicy Blood Orange, a fragrant Seville Orange, an aromatic and sour Yuzu, a Keffir or Key lime, my beloved Meyer Lemon or a Kumquat I am happy as a clam. A tangelo or clementine brings a smile to my face and a pucker to my lips just thinking about it.
You'll also must have noticed by now that I absolutely adore jams, jellies and preserving at home. I've yet to find a fruit that with a bit of sugar and lemon can not be turned into a fabulous jam, compote or preserve of some sort.
Give me enough fresh figs, persimmons, pomegranates, red currants, gooseberries, blackberries, blueberries, rhubarb or ground tomatoes and I have a favorite recipe to turn these babies into a topping for my yogurt or something delicious to spread over bread or glaze a piece of Copper River Salmon or pork with.
One of my favorite citrus fruit is the tiny and cute Kumquat. I enjoy their color, shape and most of all their fragrance. As a matter of fact, I even wore, for many years, a scent called just that, Kumquat, from the French perfume company Comptoir Sud Pacifique.
That's how much I love these babies. It woke me up in the morning and perked me up midday. It was a fragrance that always made me feel giddy and alert and fresh, perfect on a hot summer day but lovely any day. Which is the same effect the actual fruit has on me.
Available October through June, Kumquats --the name means gold orange in China--are oval oranges, about the size of grape tomatoes, believed to be native to China but are also found in Indochina and Japan. For the past hundred years the Nagami or Oval Kumquat (Fortunella.margarita) which is native to Japan, has been grown commercially--with great success-- in Florida.
Kumquats have an intense orange flavor that makes them perfect for candying, marmalade, compotes, glazes and sauces. Sliced in salads, or in sorbets, mousse or served along (in paste form) with foie gras, it is divine. Paired with mango or passion fruit can bring tears (of joy) to my eyes.
When ripe, Kumquats are the only citrus fruit that is entirely edible, skin and all. In fact, the peel is sweeter than the pulp and they also have tiny green seeds that are high in pectin. Although they are best removed before eating the fruit by hand, cooking the fruit along with the seeds makes for wonderful jam or jelly sets.
So for this 8th edition of Sugar High Fridays, Alice's Pucker Up With Citrus! I thought about making a batch of my Kumquat Compote. This compote always remind me of that scent...or is it the other way around?
You can probably get away with making this jam in one sitting but I dislike using commercial pectins and prefer to substitute with citrus fruit. Aided by a bitter orange or my dear friends Mr. Lemon and Mr. Lime--especially if that lemon is a Meyer or the lime a Keffir or Key--there really is no need for the store bought stuff, especially if, like me, you prefer to do your preserving in smallish batches.
Living in Seattle with such a wealth of farmers markets and beautiful summer fruits, affords us the luxury of trying as many ways to preserve as many fruits as possible from spring to late September.
Of course, the quick compote over yogurt turnaround in our house is conducive to experimenting more often so we'd rather preserve different fruits throughout the season than get stuck with 12 jars of any one flavor at a time.
Besides, it is faster, easier and a lot more fun to make a couple working glasses at a time than sterilizing and boiling a dozen Ball jars and two-piece metal tops.
When it comes to certain fruit jams and jellies, I prefer to follow my very own preserving fairy, Madame Christine Ferber's method for most of her jam making in which she cooks the fruit over usually two but sometimes 3 days.
For this recipe, I've chosen to cook my fruit over 2 days--instead of her Kumquat Jam recipe's recommended 3. The initial simmering allows the fruit, sugar and seeds (pectin) to cook together and do their thing. I then let the fruit mixture rest overnight in the refrigerator, covered in a glass dish.
The following day, I remove the fruit from the refrigerator and with a very small spoon go through the cooled and semi-thickened fruit removing leftover seeds and any clouding or unsightly bits before the second simmering and rapid boil.
The resulting compote has a positively stunning brilliance brilliant and glossy bright orange color. The flavor is pure orange, distinctively Kumquat, with no apple jelly to bastardize the taste which happens to be very concentrated because of the low heat simmer and molasses-slow slow cooking.
Because of the reduced sugar preparation, this compote is not sickly sweet but retains that pretty citrus spark with a nano sour bite that's not at all bitter but the perfect marriage of sweet and sour. Thick but not dry or chunky, with beautiful kumquat halves and plenty of sticky syrup that is clear and without a trace of seeds or pithy detritus.
My favorite way to eat this jam is as a topping for my morning yogurt (either Greek or homemade), the way I use June Taylor's Blood Orange Marmalade or my favorite summer yogurt accompaniment, my very own Rhubarb-Rose or Red Raspberry Rose Compotes.
We like to spread it on croissants, Brioche, buttermilk or sourdough toast or use it to fill tiny tarts. It makes for a delightful glaze with pork chops or roasted pork tenderloin, in place of the more traditional apple. And of course, it is delicious served over ice cream. A couple ginger snaps on the side and you have a party started.
1 3/4 pounds kumquats
2 cups ultra fine sugar
Juice of 1 tangerine
Juice of 1 lemon
Rinse and brush kumquats under cold water. Discard ends. Cut them in half. Remove the seeds and place in small cheesecloth bag (I use Japanese tea bags)
In a preserving pan, combine kumquat halves, sugar, lemon and orange juice along with the little bag containing the seeds. Bring to a simmer. Pour into glass dish, cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, with a small spoon, remove any loose seeds and pithy detritus from the preparation before returning to a simmer, stirring gently. Check for taste. Skim (there will be hardly any scum if none at all). Continue cooking in medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove cheesecloth with seeds. Stir and skim again if needed. Cook for 5 minutes more, while stirring. Return to a rapid boil for about 1 minute. Pour the hot compote into sterile working or jam jars. The compote will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate.
This compote should keep, refrigerated, for a few months but it is so delicious it will not last too long in your fridge. ;-)
In Seattle you can find these cute bright things most everywhere. I found lovely Kumquats the other day at Thriftway ($5.99 per pound) in West Seattle.