For most of my life, I thought that Florida was one of the few states that grew fruits year-round. Perhaps it was those juice commercials from the ’90s that influenced my thinking. Even when I lived in northern California, where I discovered pluots and real heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ markets in the summer, my impression of the growing seasons for fruit remained the same. It was only after I moved to southern California, that I really learned about the bounty of fruit that grow in winter. In December, the Meyer lemons, Valencia oranges and navel oranges ripen. By lightly pressing the fruit, oil seeps out from the peel. It’s refreshing, moisturizing and a natural bug repellent 🙂 As early as January, kumquats begin dropping from the tree, though, one could wait another 2-3 months for the fruit to ripen fully. You only need one Kumquat tree before you have more kumquats than you know how to consume. The peel is thin and sweet, the pulp is tart, but can be sweet if the fruit is ripe enough. Most of the time, the pulp is a little too tart, though and this makes the fruit perfect for making jam or jelly. I’ll share that recipe another day. Today, I tried a new recipe for candied kumquat peel, adapted from the Epicurious recipe for candied orange peel.
The recipe is straightforward. I modified it to work for kumquats.
- 30-40 kumquats, washed
- 3 cups sugar (+1 cup sugar for sprinkling on peel)
- 3 cups water
Begin by preparing the peel using a small paring knife. This process is faster if you don’t cut all the way through the fruit. Instead, holding the fruit in your hand, cut into the kumquat peel at the point where the stem was removed, circle around the entire kumquat and back up to the starting point. The peel can be easily “peeled” away from the pulp in two halves. The peel halves can be cut in two, resulting in four pieces of peel per kumquat. This process takes about 15-20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cut each kumquat in half and use a melon baller to scoop out the pulp, but I think that takes longer.)
To a saucepan, add 3 cups of sugar to 3 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over the stove at medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the kumquats. Keep the heat at medium-high until the mixture returns to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Allow the kumquats to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When ready, the kumquat peels appear almost translucent.
Line 2-3 flat surfaces or trays with parchment paper. Working in batches, drain the kumquat peels then separate and lay out the peels on the parchment paper. Try to unfold each peel. Each peel will resemble a petal. Crowd them, but don’t overlap them. Then using a coarse sifter or a mesh strainer, lightly sprinkle sugar over the peels on the parchment paper. Leave out to dry overnight.
The next day, flip the peels over, and sprinkle sugar over the other side of the peels. Leave out to dry for another day. If there’s moisture in the air, leave out to dry an additional day. The kumquat peels should be firm and dry to the touch. Pack the dried kumquats in air tight containers or freeze. Because the fruit is candied, it should last at least 1-2 months. (You could also store them with a dessicator.)
Candied kumquat peel is adored by kids. It won’t last a month if they’re around 🙂 It tastes great alone or along with chocolate cake, pound cake or lemon cake. Enjoy!