My housemate walked into the kitchen and asked me what I was making, as I stood at the hob stirring a pan of kumquats and boiling sugar. I responded that I wasn't sure. Kumquat jam? Kumquat marmalade? Kumquat preserve? The precise definitions afforded to fruits preserved in sugar have been enough to make my brain asplode; but whilst kumquats might not technically be citrus fruits, they seem citrussy enough for me to call this marmalade. Does it matter all that much, except that the result is delicious?
I rarely purchase things on impulse, but the supermarket was practically giving away its kumquat stock one Sunday afternoon and suddenly I felt the overwhelming urge to do some preserving: I bought the lot. Making this was not difficult, but it was time-consuming. Still, if you'd like to try your hand at something that amounts to marmalade without cheesecloth palaver, this is probably a good place to start.
- 750g (1lb 10oz) kumquats
- 750g (1lb 10oz) preserving sugar1
Place the kumquats in a large pan of water — they should be happily floating — and boil for 45 minutes to an hour, until the kumquats are soft.
Drain, and when the kumquats are cool enough to handle, slice them and remove and discard the seeds and pith. Slice depending on your preference for thin- or thick-sliced peel.
Place two saucers in your freezer.
Put the sliced fruit and sugar in a preserving pan2, bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring, for roughly 15 minutes, or until it reaches setting point.
To check if the marmalade has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat, pull one of your saucers out of the freezer, and place a small dollop of marmalade on it. Let the marmalade cool slightly and if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger (be careful - hot sugar!), it's ready. The difference between just-set and over-cooked and over-sticky is about a minute, so you will have to keep checking, hence the need for two saucers in the freezer to work in rotation and removing the pan from the heat whilst you check.
As soon as the marmalade has reached setting-point pour or ladle it into sterilised jars.3 (Say, two 340g/7oz jars.) Leave it to cool and then enjoy on toast, or, as my father has been doing, in cheese sandwiches made with good cheddar.
1 Preserving sugar is sugar with added pectin, which aids the setting process. You should be able to find it along side any other type of sugar in the supermarket. If you can't lay your hands on it, you should be okay with regular granulated sugar.
2 Preserving pans are large, usually stainless steel pans with a thick base to aid heat distribution and prevent the sugar from burning, and sloped sides to help with evaporation. Often, they have a bucket handle in addition to their two side handles. If you don't have one, it isn't the end of the world, choose a large pan with a thick base that can comfortably hold all the fruit and sugar.
3 Sterilise jars by washing in hot, soapy water and placing in a slow oven for 20 minutes.