Confession time: I made this marmalade in July. And then I sat on the recipe for months, waiting for it to be citrus season. And then I forgot about it. Until now. Which is a shame, because this is a delightful batch of jam.
This was actually the thing that kick-started my canning streak last summer. I was over at a friend’s parents’ house, and discovered that they had a kumquat tree. I’d never eaten a kumquat before, but suddenly here was an enormous tree speckled with ripe orange nuggets. They were ripening and falling faster than the family could eat them, so they just stayed on the tree till the squirrels got to them. That seemed like an awful shame to me, so I grabbed a bag and plucked as many as I could reach.
It wasn’t until later, when I got them all home, that I realized I had no idea what to do with them. I consulted the internet, and got one resounding answer: marmalade. And when the internet gods call, I answer. It was a labor-intensive process, slicing and seeding several dozen kumquats, gathering the seeds into a cheesecloth bundle to add pectin to the jam, and simmering the whole business until it was thick and glossy.
But I’m glad I stuck with it, because the end result was gorgeous. Some of the kumquat slices stayed whole, like tiny pinwheels, while some unfurled into long, slightly chewy strands. The flavor itself was unmistakably orangey, very honeylike, with just a touch of bitterness. I threw in a cinnamon stick, which was an unexpectedly brilliant decision. The kicky warmth of the cinnamon played perfectly against the honeyed sweetness and slight sharpness of the kumquats. You could flavor this marmalade with a lot of other things: vanilla bean, sliced ginger, whole spices, even booze.
Oh, and as far as what to do with this marmalade, it’s an amazing partner with all sorts of dairy. I ate most of my first jar swirled into Greek yogurt, and I can’t even describe how delightful it was: cool, creamy, sweet, and tangy, with little bits of rind interrupting here and there. My next jar is definitely destined for a cheese board–I can’t wait to try it with blue cheese.
Kumquat Cinnamon Marmalade (makes about 1 pint)
1 lb ripe kumquats
2 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
Special equipment: cheesecloth, thermometer, two half-pint canning jars OR four 4 oz canning jars (see note)
Wash kumquats, and discard any mushy ones. Line a plate or bowl with a sheet of cheesecloth. Trim off the stem end of each kumquat and slice crosswise into thin rounds; as you encounter seeds, gently remove them and transfer them to the cheesecloth.
In a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet, combine kumquats, water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Give the pot a good stir with a wooden spoon, and see if any additional seeds float to the top; if they do, remove them with the spoon and transfer them to the cheesecloth. Gather up the seeds into the center of the cheesecloth and tie the cloth into a tight bundle, then add the bundle to the pot. Bring to a rapid boil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 15-25 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and glossy (if you have an instant-read thermometer, the jam reaches its set point at 220º F). Remove the finished marmalade from the heat; discard the cheesecloth bundle and cinnamon stick.
Canning instructions: While the marmalade cooks, sterilize jars, lids, and rings. Transfer the hot marmalade to the hot jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rims, and apply lids and rings. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Sealed, cooled jars will keep for up to a year in a cool, dark place; once a jar is opened, keep it in the fridge and use within a month. (If you’re new to canning, there are detailed instructions here.)
Refrigerator/freezer instructions: Let the marmalade cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to clean jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, close the jars tightly, and let cool completely on the counter. Store the marmalade in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw freezer jam overnight in the refrigerator before using; once a jar is opened, refrigerate it and use it within a month.