Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coming Up Kumquats

Well its about time! For those of you who don't know, this blog is named after our store - the Curious Kumquat. And for the two years and hundreds of posts that we've written, we've never featured kumquats...until today!

I was recently gifted around 40-50 pounds of fresh kumquats off a tree in Tucson. I'm normally gifted a few pounds which I candy and work into pastries, but this was the motherload. I had to be creative, and quickly, because they were all on the verge of going bad. What to do, what to do?

Candying them is the fastest and easiest. Simply cut in half, scoop out the guts, then I put them in a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil, rinse and repeat once. After the second boil I rinse, fill the pan with 1.5 parts sugar to 1 part water, bring to a low boil and reduce to a simmer. I simmer until they start to turn transluscent. Remove from the syrup and dry on a rack. These are great in scones, muffins, or on top of halibut or a zesty chicken.

I prefer to sugar mine.

But we can do better than that, can't we! After all, that was about 2 pounds of kumquats before it became too much work. Then I decided to candy some whole. The problem here is that whole kumquats have 3 or 4 seeds inside which can be annoying. I've dropped them in the sugar water before and eaten them and they're okay, but I wanted to improve on that. So this time I boiled as per above and let science do its thing. About half way through the fillings burst out of the skin through a very small incision that I made on the stem end. Once they turned transluscent I pulled the guts the rest of the way out and allowed them to MOSTLY dry. Before they were completely dry I piped in a ganache of the darkest chocolate I had and then rolled in sugar. These became the gift to the donor.

Alright, that's another pound. This isn't going very quickly is it? Next I thought - "I want a chutney," so I found a recipe and did some modifications on it. This was very, very good, and we enjoyed it on grilled chicken.

Curried Kumquat Chutney
1/2 C. Sugar
1/4 C. White Wine Vinegar (I used O brand Ginger Rice Vinegar)
2 T. Chopped candied ginger
2 T. Dried cranberries or yellow raisins
1 t. Madras curry powder
1 1/3 C. Thinly sliced fresh kumquats, seeded
2 T. Chopped fresh cilantro
Habañero to taste

Cook sugar, vinegar, ginger, cranberries and curry, along with 1 cup of the kumquats over medium heat until reduced to about 1 cup (about 10 min). Transfer to a bowl and chill until cold. Add remaining kumquats, cilantro and habañero, season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve.

That was good, because I was able to use a good chunk of kumquats, but I still had three huge bags full of them...and they were starting to smell of rot. We had to hurry this up a bit. I threw a whole bag (about 15 pounds) into my largest stock. I added a couple of inches of water turned to med-high flame and once I saw steam, I covered and reduced the heat to med-low. I let that bad boy cook for about an hour stirring occasionally. Once they were soft, I skimmed any obvious nastiness and cooked just a bit more uncovered to remove some of the moisture. I then started plopping the glop into a food processor. It started to remind me of canned pumpkin...and that got me to a thinkin'!

Next thing you know I was making pumpkin bread...I mean kumquat bread! And it worked - really well!

Kumquat Bread
C. Flour
1 C. Chopped nuts (walnut, pecan, almond)
Bold1/2 C. Sugar
3/4 t. Baking Soda
Big pinch, Salt
2 C. Kumquat glop
1/3 C. Plain Yogurt
2 Eggs
3/4 Stick Butter, melted
1 T. Vanilla

Oven to 350F. Grease & flour loaf pan or line with parchment.

Put nuts in a bowl, then into the microwave and zap until you smell them (about 2 minutes). Kerry Beal from eG taught me that method of toasting and it works great.

Whisk the flour, sugar, soda, salt and nuts together. Combine the kumquats, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla. Pour the liquids into the solids and fold until just combined. Pour into your loaf pan and bake around 55 minutes or until done. I topped mine with a crumb and coconut. The downside to this method is the seeds again on my next attempt I'll work to remove the seeds by running the glop through a large whole strainer.

As they say, "but wait - there's more!" That really dwindled my supplies down, but I still had a bag. On this bag I just wanted plain, unsweetened puree for future use. I took the fresh fruit, cut it in half and removed the seeds but not the fillings - the appeal of kumquats is the interplay between sweet (skin) and tart (filling), and put it in the blender with just enough water to allow the blender to work. I haven't used this yet, but it will soon find its way into mousses and cakes.

So there you go. Did I miss anything? I'm ready for my next gifted fruit!

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