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Kumquat Marmalade

Kumquat Marmalade top

I never ate kumquats in Toronto. Though I did always think the name was really cute. Kumquats. It’s got a deliciously whimsical ring to it, don’t you think?

My husband, who’s from California, of course had kumquats all the time, but for me, this adorable round orange fruit was a mystery. After we moved to Southern China, I became much more aware of the fruit that is available seasonally in subtropical regions (we live just a tiny bit north of Hong Kong). Now, we live in the rhythm of the seasons, eating strawberries during their all too short season in early spring, fragrant five-cornered starfruit in later spring, incredibly cheap mangoes (right now going for 50 cents a pound), and kumquats too, when they’re available.

Kumquat Marmalade tall

The kumquat season is a short one, and to make them last, I decided to try my hand at making kumquat marmalade. I’m not a total newbie at making jam – I’ve made some really good strawberry jam in my day, and I figured, how different can it be? And it turns out, it’s not too hard. The only difference is you have to let the kumquats sit in the sugar syrup overnight to let the sugar fully penetrate into the membranes of the kumquat peel, which will candy and preserve it.

Kumquat Marmalade

Kumquat Marmalade
Method adapted from Pham Fatale

2 lbs kumquats
½ lemon
8 cups sugar
6 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 1/2-pint Mason jars, sterilized

Slice the kumquats in half and remove the seeds and the tough white center membrane. Try to leave as much flesh as possible lining the peel.

In a large heavy- bottomed pot, mix the kumquats, juice of ½ lemon, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. The liquid should be syrupy. Cover and leave to steep overnight.

The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Add the vanilla extract. Lower heat, and simmer for about an hour, stirring periodically and removing any foam with a spoon. Check the temperature regularly with a candy thermometer – when the mixture reaches 220 F, it’s ready.

The marmalade will seem runny, but will thicken up quite a lot when it cools. To test whether it’s ready, chill a plate in the freezer for a few minutes. Place a few drops of the marmalade on the chilled plate. If the marmalade thickens to a jam-like consistency, it’s ready.

Now you need to jar the jam (hee hee alliteration!).

While the marmalade is simmering, bring another large pot of water to the boil. Boil the jars and their lids for about 10 minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs (also sterilized), and place on a clean kitchen towel.

When the marmalade is ready, pour into the jars, leaving a little air at the top of the jar. Put the lids on and tighten. Place the closed jars upright into the pot of hot water, ensuring that water covers the lids. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove (carefully! They will be hot) and let cool. The seal at the top of the jars should be vacuumed down (they should not pop when you press on them).

If the jars sealed correctly, the marmalade should keep without refrigeration for a year.

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