Move over Emma Watson! Kumquats are the new love of my life. How I’ve gone so long without them astounds me. For the uninitiated, kumquats are like grape-sized citrus fruits. It’s like if Rick Moranis shrunk oranges instead of the kids. Mother nature saw fit to inverse the flavors, making the rind sweet and the flesh sour. Not only are they tasty and conveniently sized, but they also have a pretty kickin’ name. Kumquat. Just say those two syllables—isn’t it fun?!?! Apparently the name originates from China, where “kam kwat” is Cantonese for “little orange.” My mom tells me she once made a salad using them, but apparently I wasn’t around for it. Lame.
The other day I was at the grocery store, when I saw them on the shelf for a whopping $5.79 a pound. Seeing as the cherries were on sale for 1.59, I almost hesitated. Almost. But how could I help myself! They are so cute and adorable! Holding the miniscule ‘quat in my hands made me feel so gargantuan, so empowered. I purchased about ¾ of a pound and biked home satisfied with my tasty treasure.
As I biked, I wondered what I should make with them. Something so delicious can certainly be eaten raw, but I felt that wouldn’t do them justice. So I set a handful (or two, or three) aside for casual popping, and the rest for cooking.
I decided on two separate things. First, I would candy some. A couple of weeks ago I made some orangettes. That was the first time I had candied anything, and those orange peels turned out phenomenally (then again, anything dipped in chocolate turns out phenomenally.) So I took maybe a quarter pound of my ‘quats and cut them up. Some I quartered, others I sliced crosswise. The smaller ones I left whole. The kumquats—unlike the orange peel—were not brined. The orange peels for the orangettes require brining because they are bitter. As previously mentioned, kumquat rind is sweet. So they went straight into the simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar—1.5 cups) and stayed there for about ten minutes or so.
I then plucked them out of the syrup and placed them on a cooling rack (with parchment paper underneath to collect the syrup); however, they refused to dry. Hour after hour, the kumquats remained sopping with the sticky goo. I assumed the disgustingly humid weather was sabotaging my candying! So I put them in the oven on a low temp (like 120ºF for an hour or so and left them in there for another couple of hours. I mean, that’s how I dry out my meringues. I then sealed them up in a tuperware, placed them in the fridge, and have been happily snacking on them ever since. I’m sure they’d be great in salads or in a savory dish. They’d also be great for decoration, like on top of a cake or ice cream. I kept the simple syrup, as it now smells and tastes like kumquat and took on a delightfully orange tint. Perhaps I’ll make a sorbet or something with it. Any ideas?
The second thing I decided to make was kumquat infused vodka. I’ve never enjoyed vodka, but I thought that this would be an interesting little experiment. I took a handful, cut them up, placed them in a jar, filled the jar with vodka, sealed the jar, placed it in the refridge, and waited. In fact, I’m still waiting. I have no idea when it will be done, but hopefully by this weekend. My dad’s birthday is Saturday, and this could make for some great vodka tonics or screwdrivers or something like that. I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out.
Kumquats are pretty awesome; however, I wish they had more visibility. Most of my friends gave me looks of utter bewilderment when I told them I had purchased “kumquats.” Perhaps kumquats are in need of an anthropomorphic cartoon animal to spread the word. It worked for sugar cereals, why not kumquats?
In the meantime, here’s a poorly executed photoshop project…