I’ve been on a marmalade bender lately. Well, it’s actually been for the last few weeks. Winter, of course, is marmalade season and the markets in Paris are heaped with citrus: Corsican clementines, pretty yellow bergamots, hefty pink grapefruits from Florida (although some infer appellations from elsewhere – namely, the Louvre), leafy lemons from Nice, and lots and lots of oranges.
The stands are so piled up that it’s not uncommon to be walking down the aisle and have an orange roll off of the piles and land on your foot. (Which is why it is a good idea to wash any fruit before you use it.) This means I’ve got so many jars of marmalade, that when my friend Luisa stopped by and saw the jars piled on top of a shelf in my bedroom, she said “I’ve doing the same thing ” at her apartment in Berlin. Sometimes I think jam-making could be classified as an epidemic and if so, there’s ample evidence that I’m ready for an intervention.
While kumquats were once classified with their look-alike citrus brethren and sistern (admittedly, it can be hard to tell as it’s difficult to get a look under their navels), they are now placed in another genus category (Fortunella), even though they share many characteristics of citrus fruits.
One of those characteristics is that they are winter fruits. And another is that they are très bon pour la santé (good for your health), containing lots of vitamin C. And they also make you feel happier, since not only does their tangy-bitter flavor brighten up even the darkest of winter day, nothing makes me happier than to wake up in the morning and gaze at my shelf of marmalade first thing in the morning.
I was especially happy when I was doing my shopping at the outdoor market and came across a big bin of kumquats. I scooped up a nice-sized bag of them and brought them home, where they patiently waited in the refrigerator until I decided what to do with them.
Originally I’d considered giving them a quick-candying and strewing them over poached prunes with a scoop of ice cream. But I ended up sticking my fingers into the bowl of prunes a few too many times during the week and ended up with a small puddle of cinnamon-spiced dark syrup pooled in the bottom of a container in my refrigerator, which I didn’t think would go with anything.
So I decided to get out my little serrated knife, slice up my Fortunella fruits, and make marmalade. I added a couple of lemons not just to bulk it up, but because I thought with the added sugar, the marmalade would benefit from some extra acidity.
I normally spoon my marmalades on morning toast, but after I made this batch, I had cleaned up the kitchen and was going to reward myself to a nice bowl of split pea soup for lunch with some Comté cheese and – like most good ideas (and a few of the bad ones) – it suddenly occurred to me that the tart marmalade might be nice with the nutty cheese I was cutting into batons.
And sure enough, it was. Fortunately I have three nice jars of marmalade to add to my collection. So far this year I’ve made Seville orange marmalade (eight jars) and four jars of mixed marmalade, using the bergamots and citron that were plucked off a tree in Sicily. After all that slicing, seeding, and simmering, the last pot of marmalade has been jarred and stored; they’ll last me through the winter. And if I am prudent, a number of spring and summer mornings as well.
About three 1-cup (250ml) jars
Many of the little rings of kumquats will, unfortunately, come apart as you cook the marmalade. The reward, however, is gorgeous jars of tangy marmalade that you’ll be happy to spread on your morning toast or serve with a bit of cheese after dinner. I served mine with Comté, but a nice goat cheese or another nutty mountain cheese, like Gruyère, would pair nicely with it.
It takes a bit of patience to slice and pluck out all the seeds from the kumquats, but you can get 2 to 3 jars of marmalade for your efforts. I use a small serrated knife to slice off the stem end, then start slicing the kumquats crosswise, until I get close to the center. Finally, I stick the tip of the knife into the area where the seeds are and slip them into a small bowl. Because the seeds are rather large, any that you miss you can usually find just by doing a little scanning of your pile of sliced kumquats.
I use oval Nagami kumquats, which are more puckery than the round Meiwi kumquats, which you sometimes come across. Do try to get organic or unsprayed fruit from your local market or natural food store. The kirsch is optional, but it does nicely round out the flavor of the marmalade. You can substitute another liquor, such as gin, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, light rum, or a dash of brandy. Or it can be omitted, if you wish.
- 2 lemons, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded, and very thinly sliced
- 1 pound (450g) kumquats, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
- (Reserve the seeds from the lemon and kumquats)
- 5 1/2 cups (1,3l) water
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- pinch of salt
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon kirsch or other liquor
1. Put the lemon slices in a large non-reactive pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lemons are translucent, about 5 minutes. Drain. (Discard the water.)
2. Put the blanched lemons back in the pot. Tie the seeds from the lemons and kumquats securely in a piece of cheesecloth or étamine, and add the seed sack to the pot along with the sliced kumquats and water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let stand 24 hours.
3. The next day, put a small plate in the freezer. (Optional: If you have a candy thermometer, you can clip it to the side of the pot.)
4. Add the sugar and salt to the pot, and cook the marmalade for 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat. Remove the bag of seeds and when it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the seeds in the cheesecloth using your hands or place it in a ladle and press it with the back of a soup spoon (being careful not to break the fabric and release the seeds) over the jam pot to so the pectin goes directly into the marmalade mixture.
5. Continue cooking until it has reached the jelling point, about 220ºF (104ºC) degrees, if using a candy thermometer. To test the marmalade, turn off the heat and put a small amount on the plate that has been chilled in the freezer and briefly return it to the freezer. Check it in a few minutes; it should be slightly jelled and will wrinkle a bit when you slide your finger through it. If not, continue to cook until it wrinkles slightly on the chilled plate when you nudge it.
6. Remove from heat, then stir in the kirsch (if using), and ladle the mixture into clean jars.
Note: I store my jams and marmalades in a cool place, often the refrigerator if not planning to use them within a few weeks. if you wish to can or preserve them, you can check out these canning tips.
Kumquat Marmalade (Recipe Girl)
Kumquat Marmalade with Star Anise (Drizzle & Dip)
Sunday Morning Kumquat Jam (Amateur Gourmet)
Small Batch Kumquat Marmalade (Food in Jars)
Maple Kumquat Marmalade (A Bloggable Feast)