If you have an established cumquat tree, it’s likely you’ll always be trying to give the fruit away, as they’re incredibly prolific once they hit their straps, but there seem to be less uses for the fruit than lemons or oranges.
You can of course make a refreshing cordial with them by adapting this recipe, and they make an excellent infused booze for Christmas (basically just combine cumquats, sugar and either brandy or vodka and let sit for 3-4 months before straining), but if you’ve got a bit of time, cumquat marmalade is a delicious way to preserve them.
This recipe uses vanilla to add a sweet, rounded note to the aromatic tartness of the cumquats. We buy our vanilla from local Melbourne stockist Vanilla & Co. as their pods are always plump and fresh, they’re really reasonably priced, and their customer service is wonderful. You could also experiment with adding rose water, or perhaps a dash of gin or brandy at the end for a different level of flavour complexity.
Making marmalade is generally a 2-day job, so make sure you set aside enough time before launching in.
1 vanilla pod
1 large lemon
Method – Day 1
1. Wash and de-stem cumquats.
2. Cut in half and remove pips. Pop pips in a small bowl.
3. Using your thumb or a teaspoon, scrape the flesh out and add to a large non-reactive bowl.
4. Bunch the skins together and slice/shred as fine as you like it. Add to the large bowl.
5. Split open the vanilla pod, scrape the seeds out and add it all to the cumquats.
6. Halve lemon and squeeze juice into large bowl. Chuck in the lemon skins & pulp as well.
7. Add 400ml water to the fruit bowl and 100ml to the pip bowl. Stir each one well then cover and leave overnight.
Method – Day 2
1. Strain pip liquid into fruit bowl, then tie pips into a small piece of boiled muslin/thin cotton. Add to fruit.
2. Transfer the lot to large heavy-based pot.
3. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or until skins are nicely tender.
4. Warm sugar in a baking tray in the oven, then add to the pot.
5. Heat slowly until sugar dissolves, then bring to a rolling boil and keep it there until marmalade reaches a Set. Test for a set by dripping a bit onto a cold plate, waiting til it cools, and seeing if it wrinkles when you poke your finger through it.
6. Skim off any scum and remove vanilla beans, lemon peels and pips.
7. Pour marmalade into hot sterilised jars and seal with boiled, dry lids while hot.
Store in a cool dark cupboard for potentially years before opening, then in the fridge once you’ve cracked the jar.
* Non-reactive bowls include glass, ceramic or food-grade plastic. Don’t use metal as the acids in the citrus can lightly corrode metal (especially copper!) which leads to contamination of your marmalade.
* Adding lemon is important to help this marmalade set, as cumquats don’t have a huge amount of pectin in them, even if they are quite sour. Lots of the pectin in lemons is in the skin, pith and seeds, which is why we add them too.
* You can shred the lemon skins to add to the marmalade if you want, but because cumquat skins are so thin, you’d have to scrape all the pith off the lemons before shredding otherwise you’d end up with inconsistent texture.
* Warming the sugar helps your marmalade reach boiling point quicker, which means you don’t have to cook it for as long. Longer cooking darkens the colour of preserves, so warming the sugar before adding means your marmalade will be a much brighter, light colour. If you’re not too fussed about that and can’t be bothered, don’t do it.
* When you’ve filled all of your jars, there will be some scrappy bits of marmalade left in the pot: scrape it out with a spatula and keep in a little container for adding to drinks. It makes a most excellent ‘solid cordial’, and it goes especially well with a G&T 🙂
* The large pieces of lemon you remove can be slowly dehydrated to make a form of candied peel. Imagine THAT swirled through your Christmas cake!!