Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kumquat-Habanero Marmalade.

At the half-way point of my sugar-free month, I find that I've already made jam four times. Twice I made some for a friend, but twice I made it just for my jam shelf. Even though I dutifully allowed myself just a spoonful or two to check for flavor, I have come to the conclusion that if I add some kind of chile to something sweet, I can hardly keep it off of my mind or out of my mouth. That is exactly what happened when I decided to pair the bright orange habanero pepper with similarly orange kumquats.

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Kumquats are a tiny, cheerful things that I've never tried before last week. I bought a few on impulse when I saw them in a rather neglected bin at my co-op. The second I got in the door, I washed one up and bit into it, the flood of vibrant flavor hitting me stronger than I anticipated. It tasted like every type of citrus I've ever had, held together by tropical, under-ripe undertones of mango. It felt so rebellious to simply bite into it, stippled peel and all - and in the midst of my sugar-freedom, it tasted sweeter than eating a plain sugarcube. The resinous aftertaste was just as rewarding, and just like that I knew my first marmalade of the new year would be made of kumquats.

kumquats.

After I decided to preserve them, I garnered even more excitement by reading about Marisa's kumquat experience, but I had already settled in on a recipe form from Linda Ziedrich - a longer, wait-around method similar to the lemon marmalade that I made last year, and one requiring only 12 oz. of fruit. When I decided to add a habanero, I knew right away that this one was going to be a keeper. I picked up more fruit, and then I waited for our first snowfall, since there isn't anything better than standing over a pot of bubbling citrus when the snow is flying...

kumquat marmalade making

Kumquat-Habanero Marmalade (adapted from Linda Ziedrich)
yield 2 pints (I made two half pints and 4 quarter pints)
  • 12 oz. kumquats, sliced thinly into rounds, seeds removed and saved
  • 1/2 of a habanero pepper, stemmed and seeded
  • 5 c. water (filtered is best)
  • 4 c. sugar (I used raw cane sugar)

Place the kumquat seeds into a spice bag, or tie them up into a small piece of cheesecloth. Put the kumquat slices, water, and bag of reserved seeds into a large preserving pot along with the chile pepper. Bring to a boil, and boil uncovered for 15 minutes skimming off any foam that may form. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a towel. Let it stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

After standing, fish out the habanero pepper (but leave the bag of seeds in), add sugar to the pan and place over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Then, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat, cover again with the cloth, and let sit for another 8-12 hours.

Prepare jars, lids and rings as well as a hot water bath. Bring the kumquat mixture to a boil slowly, then raise the heat and continue boiling until it passes the spoon test, jells when dropped on a chilled plate, or until the mixture heats to at least 220 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat, remove the bag of seeds, and skim off any foam. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Ladle into pint, half-pint or quarter pint jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

marmalade set test

The result of this marmalade is truly addicting. Honestly, I tried not to eat any just because I am bound my my resolution... but I did eat one little Daring Baker trial with a spoonful and it was worth any cheating. It has such a clean flavor and underlying heat, which is the best type in my opinion. Hot on the tongue and then departing quickly, that's actually how I always think of the often misunderstood habanero. Yes, his heat is brutal, but it also dissipates faster than other chile. When coupled with sugar, that effect seems hurried and creates easy addiction because you want to keep feeling that embracing heat loll about in your mouth. At least I do!

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In a way, I'm looking forward to February, when I can be guilt-free in trying more sugary combinations. I love chile preserves in particular paired with cheeses and other savory and salty things. I wonder how it would taste if I made a hard boiled egg and mixed the yolk with jam before filling the silky egg white hull. But I know that is just the allure of sugar tugging at my heartstrings, just making sure that I haven't left him for good. Even with these tempting jars of this marmalade close at hand, I am surprised at my resolve, and I actually think quite often of the Sally Fallon quote in Nourishing Traditions: "Don't forget to enlist the power of prayer in your battle against the sweet tooth". It is a battle, but one that with each passing day I feel more like the victor instead of the victim. In the middle of a sugar-free month I'm able to resist this irresistible jam, I must be doing something right!

28 comments:

  1. Ooh, that sounds so good. a little Heat does do wonders. Must try it some day. Thanks

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  2. What an altogether lovely post. The marmalade sounds and looks delish and I love your writing style. Love where you say 'kumquats are tiny cheerful things'. Think I need some of them round my house.

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  3. What gorgeous pictures. Citrus really helps the winter go by, doesn't it? Did you hand slice these? They are perfect! And your tasting notes are spot on. Love it!

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  4. Good for you on your resolution, and great job on the jam. I can't wait to try the orange-rhubarb one.
    Check you facebook messages!

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  5. So being new to the habanero pepper....does the color of the pepper I use effect the intensity of the heat? I'm looking for just a subtle kick for one batch, and a more pronounced kick for the other. Not sure if I should just halve the pepper for one or use a yellow in one and green in the other.

    I found kumquats at my local discount produce stand and had a lovely time digging through the pile for a uniform pound of fruit....way more fun than buying apples or bananas. Can't wait to get started later this evening.

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  6. Angela, not sure about color affecting the heat, but I know that the peppers are ripe when orange. I grew them last summer, and I didn't try them green! There isn't a huge kick (depending on your tolerance levels), but more of a warmth- I think it soaks into the peel more than the syrupy part. I brought a jar out to my parents' this weekend and we opened it: they didn't think it was too hot at all, and had to taste it plain to detect it. Personally, I may make another batch and use a whole pepper for a tad more kick! I'm officially hooked on the kumquat! (Hope it works out well for you!)

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  7. Well I ended up using one of the yellow ones. Definitely notice it more in the slices of kumquat versus the gel. Maybe it will marry and blend more as it sits. Came out way less spicy than I'd thought, which is almost not spicy enough.

    My gel is completely clear though. The pulp was almost non-existant in my fruits. Lots of seeds though. I though I would go nuts for trying to pick out the sliced bits of seed.

    I am enamored of the pretty little slices though. Way more fun than strips or even miniature chunks for marmalade.

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  8. Angela,
    The pulp was almost non-existant in mine too - some seemed almost dry even... and yes, the seeds were tedious! Even so, I think I'm going to make another batch. Even my brother really liked it, and hinted that he might like a jar. I think I'll make it hotter too - you could mince up the pepper and leave it in there. That would really take up the heat levels!

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  9. I feel like I just ate all of it, and it was delicious, and I have no regrets. Your pictures are gorgeous. Kumquat is a great word, too.

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  10. Hi Rebecca

    Went on a quest for kumquats 2 days ago and to my surprise found some. I followed your instructions, but used one whole chopped up habanero. Tastes good, not as hot as I thought, probably could have used 2. Had plenty of seeds soaking and did not use any pectin. At this point it has not jelled. Should I be concerned? I truly do not want to start over. Thanks, Rosalie

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    1. Hi Rosalie,
      The first time I made marmalade, I didn't have a set but I didn't notice (or didn't try checking for a gel on a cold plate or spoon) until after it was all canned. I had to take all my marm out of the jars, and bring it all back up to boiling until it did have a set (I had to also replace all the used lids with new...).

      Had you gotten to that point? I boiled it down until I reached the 220 degree mark, and then I tested for a set, and I had one. I hope it works for you! I think each batch of fruit is unique, and it may just take a little more boiling time for you to reach the set stage. (Otherwise, you can always call it syrup, and make yourself a waffle or some ice cream to go with it :) )

      Also, I found that the habanero heat settled more in the peels when I tried the jars that were processed. I'm definitely going to make mine hotter next time too...

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  11. Hi Rebecca

    Yes the marm reached 220, seemed like forever tho, I checked for a set - for the 4th time - and it seemed ok. I did this Tuesday and I still have syrup, yes I can put it on ice ream! When you redid your marm, did you add more sugar or add pectin? I did marm before and don't remember a problem. Thanks, Rosalie

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    1. When I had that problem, I asked Marisa McClellan (Food in Jars) what to do - and she told me definitely to add a little pectin, which I did. Marisa is a fan of liquid pectin (which is what I used), one pouch did the trick. I really hope it works for you too!

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    2. One thing that could have reduced the amount of natural pectin in your citrus was the age of the fruits. I know that slightly underripe fruit has more pectin, so perhaps that played a role?

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  12. Thank you Rebecca. If the marm does not gel by tomorrow evening I will redo and add one packet of liq pectin. I think the fruits were not underripe, at least they were all orange. Several - probably 40-50% were dried up inside, maybe that was the problem. I'll let you know what happens. Rosalie

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    1. Hope it all worked out!! If you were re-boiling, you could also add more habanero if you wanted it to be spicier, it could be a silver lining ;)

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  13. Hi Rebecca I re-boiled and added 1 packet of liq pectin and 1 Tbs of bottled lemon juice (no reason) I now have jelled marmalade. Yay!:) Did not think to add another hab, was too focused on the jelling. Was glad I had some new lids in the house. Rosalie

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    1. I'm so glad it worked out in the end!

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  14. The first picture of this post is stunning, and this is a recipe I'm definitely going to try.
    Congrats on your sugar-free month. It may be the kick-in-the-pants that I need to try the same.

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  15. Hi.. found you through food in jars.. love this recipe and will have to give it a try.

    todd

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  16. Never got tired eating it. This photo is tempting.

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  17. Oh, just the best thing ever! Thank you!

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  18. I made the marmalade using the microwave. Got the idea from an internet receipe. Habanero and Kumquat is a perfect combination.

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  19. Why are the seeds added to the boil, what purpose do they serve? I, too, made my marmalade using the microwave. Quick and easy.

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    1. The seeds have most of the pectin, and in a jam without added pectin, it helps it to set up a little bit!

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  20. I'm not sure if my comment went through or not so I apologize if I double-post. But, I wanted to let you know that I've been using this blog post for two years now. We have so many kumquats in Louisiana this time of year! The only thing I change is that I use more habanero - we like heat here! What's really beautiful about this marmalade is that the habaneros mellow somehow so that it's not burn-your-tongue hot. This is one of the best preserves I've ever made (and I make a lot of preserves), so thank you for sharing your recipe!!

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    1. Wow! Thanks Emily! This comment just made my day :). I should start seeing kumquats up here again soon, you remind me to make more this year!

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