Those were the days when most backyards had a cumquat tree. Nowadays, a lot of people keep their ornamental cumquat trees in tubs on patios and verandahs, however when grown in the open in the ground, the trees flourish and provide fruit for many jars of marmalade, as well as a beautiful screen and windbreak. One of my fondest childhood memories is of the bountiful, compact cumquat tree in our backyard, and then my industrious Mother making bottles and bottles of cumquat jam which always thickened and turned out perfectly. The blossom on the tree is also highly perfumed, a magnet for bees, birds and insects alike. It is a native tree of China, and is not a perfect citrus fruit. Real citrus have 8-15 sections, whilst cumquats have only 3-6 sections. Considering its size, I'm not surprised, are you?
Cumquat marmalade on toast is synonymous with a delicious leisurely breakfast. I was given 500g of cumquats this week, so decisions decisions. How should I use them? As much as we love cumquat preserve, I wanted to try something different. Stephanie Alexander's idea of pickling cumquats enticed me, as she says that then after several weeks of pickling, these little gems can be used to flavour a roast chicken or duck beautifully, and a tablespoon of the vinegar can be used to deglaze the baking dish before adding a glass of wine for stock.The cumquats and the juices can also be made into a cumquat butter, and frozen until ready for use. I have to wait several weeks now for the pickling to process, and then I can start experimenting with my pickled cumquats. I am pretty excited about doing something really different with them. If I manage to track down some more cumquats this season at the markets, I will brandy them, so I am really hoping that will eventuate as well.
Have you pickled or brandied cumquats before or do you prefer to make marmalade? The good thing about working with cumquats is that they only require a good wash and don't need to be peeled before using them.
500 g cumquats, washed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cinnamon
600 ml water
150 g castor sugar
1 teaspoon cloves
600 ml white wine vinegar
Dissolve salt in water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over cumquats in a bowl and stand for 12 hours. Drain.
Simmer sugar and spices in vinegar until sugar has dissolved. Simmer a further 5 minutes. Carefully pack cumquats into a hot sterilised jar, then pour in 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.
Thanks for dropping by,