Wednesday, 7 October 2009

in the name of rotting fruit, eat it!

I was waiting to talk about figs. How much I love them, how we buy them by the flat in my family, how every fig season I gorge myself by the fistful and never look back....

I experimented with figs this year - pickles, sweets, etc. It was all good, but nothing was, well, extraordinary. Nothing was as good as a fresh fig, so ripe the pink seeds inside are coated with that sticky syrupy goodness. I've tried, and this year, I've decided: fresh is best for the fig.

So what to do?

I went to Fresno.

I've never found a reason to go to Fresno in my life, and honestly, I don't know if I'll ever find a reason to go back again. But my college pal Jayme is staying there for a while with her family, so I thought I'd escape for a weekend and discover what Central Valley farmland was all about.

Jayme's dad grows grapes and citrus, amongst other things. Ironically, her family doesn't really eat any fruit, or many vegetables for that matter, I suppose since after seeing something every day in the fields one doesn't really want to go home and see it on the kitchen counter or on the dinner plate.

I was fine with all this. I've come to understand (after the trials of Scotland) that everyone has their own style of eating, and it isn't necessary kale-focused. What I wasn't fine with were the kumquats beginning to rot on the tree in their backyard.

In fact, I was practically traumitized. Free! Beautiful! Fruit! Growing in your backyard! But none of the six immediate family members were remotely interested, and even made faces when I suggested the consumption of these little colorful gems.

I picked every single one I could salvage, climbing through the spider webs and showing that tree more love than it had seen in a while.

Jayme's 94 year old grandmother was eating marmalade that morning. And, shabam, it came to me: I would make kumquat marmalade.

Minus a few refreshing citrus bursts on the 5+ hour ride home (what made me think it was three hours?) plus a google search later and I had found my perfect recipe: sugar, fruit, and a little something special in the name of Earl Grey tea.

Since the tea is often scented with bergamot, a type of asian citrus, the kumquat and Earl Grey seemed a serendipitous match. And the results? Amazing. Spectacular. Thin ribbons of tangy peel suspended in the tea scented syrup was almost too much to bear. Maybe even better than a ripe fig?

Wonderfully sour and sweet, with a hint of something unusual as the tea lingers on the tongue, this stuff is good. And that doesn't even address the color: a brilliant orange that is so optimistic in those little glass jars it's hard to wonder why I'm enjoying the preserving process so much.

Kumquat Marmalade with Earl Grey
adapted from The Gothamist

1 1/2 lbs kumquats, sliced thinly, seeds reserved
4 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar
two bags of Earl Grey tea

Tie the seeds in a piece of cheesecloth (this will be your pectin). Put sliced kumquats, seeds, and water in a large pot, cover, and let soak overnight or for 24 hours.

The next day, add the tea bags to the mixture, then bring to a boil (do not remove seeds). Let boil gently for 35-45 minutes, until quite thick, removing the tea bags after 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. Then, stirring constantly, pour in the sugar. When sugar is all stirred in, cook another 10-20 minutes, until mixture sheets off the back of a spoon.

Pour into sterilized jars and refrigerate, or process in a boiling water bath.

Fills 5 8-ounce jars, with a little extra to taste

1 comment:

  1. tess,
    thanks for posting a photo of the optimistic orange color! The fruit photos make me feel happy too.