by Tara Pederson

I am fortunate enough to be blessed with thoughtful, generous people in every facet of my life.  Food is absolutely no exception.   I am often gifted with armloads of fresh herbs,  home made spice blends and vinegars, and lately, local citrus.  All of which I either use immediately or preserve for future use. No food item left behind!  Last year, and again this year, I have also received lots of requests for ways to use that most interesting of local fruits, now beautifully ornamenting our small town on most blocks – the small but mighty kumquat.

Kumquats are in the citrus family, their name deriving from a Cantonese word meaning “golden orange” or “golden tangerine.”    Native to South Asia, they became a European marvel through Robert Fortune’s 1840s introduction.  (Fortune was a collector for the London Horticultural Society).  Shortly after, they made the jump across the Atlantic, and here we are, left with the conundrum of what to do with truckloads of them before they plunge to the lifeless ground, rendering themselves useless.

Many people would consider them somewhat useless as it is, because they skirt from too green to overripe in just a couple of room temperature days. (They can be refrigerated up to a week when ripe).

They are also small and tedious to process.  But their sweet/tart, juicy freshness is unlike any other citrus experience, and you really shouldn’t miss out!  I hope you give these recipes a try so you can enjoy kumquats in ways you may never have.  And if you just can’t be bothered, find someone – like yours truly – who will give them the love they deserve.

The Recipes:

Candied – Roughly chop 4 cups kumquats.  Discard any seeds that are easy to pick out, but the seeds are edible, so don’t despair over them!  Bring 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil over high heat. Add kumquats and simmer for 10 minutes. – Reduce the heat if needed, to prevent burning. -Drain kumquats in a strainer and return syrup to the pan to reduce for 5 minutes. Combine syrup and kumquats. Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Ricotta Kumquat Tart – Combine 5 oz. crushed graham crackers or shortbread cookies, 4 tbsp melted butter, 1 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt.  Press mixture into a pie or tart pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes and let cool.  Beat together 1.5 cups ricotta, ½ cup heavy cream, 2 tbsp sugar, and ½  tsp cinnamon. Fold in 5 chopped kumquats. Pour into crust and top with 2 more sliced kumquats. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or up until overnight, before serving.

Kumquat Chicken –   Marinate 4-6 pieces of chicken in a mixture of 1 tbsp soy sauce, ½ tsp Szechuan pepper (or other pepper flake, as is available) and a pinch of salt for at least 20 minutes, up to 3 hours.

Cook chicken in a 375 degree F oven 20 minutes, or until it reads 365 degrees F internally. When cool enough, cut into one inch strips.  Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Saute 1 minced clove of garlic for about one minute. Add 2 tbsp say sauce, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Stir in 6 thinly sliced kumquats. Turn off the heat and add ½ tsp sesame seeds. Pour the sauce over the cooked chicken and serve.