September 7, 2010

Pickled Cumquats


The beginning of Spring marks the end of the peak season for many Winter fruits and vegetables, including the bittersweet and ever so tart cumquat. A slow-growing evergreen shrub, bearing said fruit, sits by the front door to my house, welcoming guests with its dark glossy green leaves in Summer and bright orange gem-like fruits during the colder months.

My earliest memory with cumquats is drinking them, sliced and muddled in hot water, with a little bit of honey added - my grandma's secret remedy for sore throats and colds. It actually works wonders, soothing inflammation with the pungent zest and tart flesh, combined with the sweetness from the honey. I also remember plonking a whole cumquat into my mouth as a little girl, thinking that I had scored myself a golden treat, but was quick to suffer the consequences of my gluttony with a puckered face and shocked yelps after tasting the extreme sourness of the juices inside.

Cumquats are best enjoyed in chutneys, marinades, sweet compotes, jelly, marmalades, liquers or simply sliced, fresh in salads. They pair extremely well with and complement the flavours of duck, poultry and other fatty meats. When buying, select cumquats whose rind are bright orange in colour, with no hint of green. They generally keep at room temperature for up to three days, but can last up to two weeks in the fridge. 

At home, mum uses cumquats from our tree, freshly quartered in fruit salads, whereas I prefer to poach them in sugar syrup to serve with vanilla ice cream - The acidity and sharpness from the compote deliciously cuts through the creamy, mellowness of the ice-cream.

A couple of months ago, I decided to pickle the last batch of cumquats, picked from our tree, using a recipe from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion. The pickled cumquats inside the jar have since become shrunken, wrinkled and slightly dark brown in colour, so it is almost time for me to experiment with them in different dishes. I can't wait!

- 1 tsp salt
- 600ml water
- 500g cumquats, washed
- ⅔ cup caster sugar
- ½ stick cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 600ml white wine vinegar

Dissolve salt in water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the cumquats in a bowl and stand for 12 hours. Drain.

Simmer the sugar and spices in vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Carefully pack the cumquats into hot, sterilised jars, then pour in the boiling vinegar syrup and seal. Store in a cool place. Leave for several weeks before using. Both the pickling syrup and the cumquats can be used.

Pickled Cumquats - Day 1

 After 3 months - All ready for use!

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