Candied kumquats with vanilla and cinnamon

I’ve been anxiously awaiting canning season this year. Last summer I didn’t preserve nearly enough as we needed for the upcoming year.  We’ve been out of jam for months now and this year I plan on making enough cherry, strawberry, blueberry, and peach preserves to last a year of ravenous monkeys.

But until I’m able to find the best fruits of the season—and it’s about time for cherries!—I’ve been playing with some of the fruits that, in New Jersey, I never get to buy locally. These kumquats aren’t local, and I’m not sure when their season is (I’m guessing winter) but, cooked slowly in syrup, they were delicious nonetheless.

Anyway you candy kumquats will yield sweet-tart, marmalade-like preserves, but this recipe is really special.  I spotted it in a recipe for a gingerbread cake topped with candied kumquats, and the thought of cinnamon and vanilla bean must have flipped on a switch in my brain, because I couldn’t think another thought until I had the kumquats I’d bought earlier that week swimming in a sweet pool of honey and spices.

Orange honey is a perfect match here, the background floral and citrus is a real no-brainer to pair with kumquats, but any honey would do.  I used a vanilla bean and I don’t think vanilla extract would work here (vanilla sugar would be fine); you could leave it out if you don’t have (or want to buy) a vanilla bean.  You can’t totally see it in the pictures, since the syrup was still hot, but the magical black specks of vanilla bean came out to sparkle by the next day.  The jar didn’t last much longer than that, though.

Candied Kumquats with Vanilla and Cinnamon

makes one 8-oz jar with a bit leftover

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup orange honey
scant 1/4 cup natural sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pint kumquats, halved and seeded (about 14-18 ounces)

Add first five ingredients to a saucepan over medium-high heat, scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean and adding both seeds and pod.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Add kumquats and bring back to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until kumquats are tender and the syrup has reduced some.  Cool and store in a jar in the fridge.

Craving kumquats without the bean? Try Elise’s Candied Kumquats or get fancy with some of Cannelle et Vanille’s Candied Kumquat and Pistachio Financiers.

Cranberries are back.

It’s time.  Can you taste it?  That tongue-titillating tartness?  Cranberries are back. Whether you love them or hate them, cranberries are a practically indispensable part of Thanksgiving.  But really, they are so much more.

Cranberries are an autumn pick-me-up, little bombs of shocking flavor that can be added into applesauce, baked in muffins, made into jam and slathered on your sandwich, eaten with granola and yogurt, or even by the spoonful whenever you need that jolt of it’s-okay-that-summer’s-over feeling.  Winter’s coming but it doesn’t need to be all butter and braising.  Just because we’ve got to make do without raspberries and watermelon doesn’t mean we still can’t have a little fun.

This cranberry relish in particular is fun with a capital “F”.  White cranberries (cranberries harvested after they’ve matured, but before they turn red) are joined with candied grapefruit peel and grapefruit juice, cooked until the berries “pop!” and sassied up with mint.  To say it’s refreshing is a serious understatement.  This cranberry relish is practically electric.

Maybe too electric for the Thanksgiving table.  It’s a bit too dominating for turkey but the zing!-factor shines slathered over a pork tenderloin, or even a flank steak.  Better yet, serve this (warmed up a tad) over buttery pound cake.  You’d never know it wasn’t summer outside.

White Cranberry Relish with Grapefruit and Mint

Makes 3 cups//adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov ’08

  • 1 large pink grapefruit*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups white cranberries (or red cranberries)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (pink-yellow outer layer only) from 1 grapefruit in strips. Cut peel into 2-inch-long, 1/8-inch-wide strips (about 1/2 cup). Squeeze 1 cup juice from grapefruits.

Stir 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add grapefruit peel; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until peel is soft, about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup grapefruit juice and cranberries; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Stir in mint. Cover; chill until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Bon Appetit uses 2 grapefruits, I only had one on hand.  I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any grapefruit flavor (it was very pronounced, actually) but feel free to use 2 instead of 1.