“By the way Gina, a failure has often turned out to be a success and fantastic products would not exist if there were not someone who made a mistake or experienced a failure.”
A recent quote from my dear friend Oli.
* The Slinky was supposed to hold equipment on naval ships.
* Play-Doh was supposed to be wallpaper cleaner.
* Champagne was bottled wine that didn’t ferment properly.
* Chocolate chip cookies were a dessert recipe gone wrong.
What’s this have to do with today’s post? This recipe was supposed to make marmalade.
Marmalade Gone Wrong
Kumquats. Don’t you just love to say Kumquats? Native to China, they look like tiny, oval oranges. In fact, the name is derived from the Chinese kam kwat meaning gold orange. What? You’ve never had a kumquat? Just pop one into your mouth and enjoy the sweet, sour, tart, slightly spicy citrus rush. You’ll find that the peel is sweeter than the pulp.
Over the years, I’ve wanted to make kumquat marmalade and hunted high and low for a recipe that made use of the fruit’s high pectin content. I must say that the several times I’ve followed recipes to a “T” the result was delicious. However, my marmalade was always too thin. It was a cross between syrupy and slightly soupy. Oli declared it to be more of a compote.
A few weeks ago I heard these bright-orange orbs calling my name from the far corner of the market. Once again kumquats graced my kitchen counter. After consuming a few out of hand, I was determined to make a successful kumquat marmalade. I was also in need of quiet time to re-group and re-coup after many weeks of being out of the kitchen because life got super busy and in the way. Quiet time indeed. You see, it’s the kumquat seeds, with some help from lemon seeds, that provide the pectin for the marmalade. To get at those little rascals, you have to slice the fruits and extract the seeds. A tedious task, but for me a pleasurable one.
So, with good jazz in the background and a glass of fine cabernet sauvignon I set out to produce a kumquat marmalade to rival all kumquat marmalades. Basic recipes call for kumquats, lemon, sugar and water. I added star anise and a Kaffir lime leaf. I tossed in a green cardamom pod, a couple of cloves, a cinnamon stick and a tablespoon of very finely chopped lime peel.
The result? Once again the consistency was a far cry from lush, thick marmalade.
However, from what was supposed to be marmalade a terrific dipping sauce was born. Those spring rolls in the fridge found their way into this gorgeous blend of citrus, laced with a subtle Asian influence. It was a marriage made by mistake that will live happily ever after in my kitchen.
Since the first dipping sauce was such a success I made a second batch. This time I tossed four 3-inch pieces of bruised lemon grass into the cooking pot- nothing else. When the mixture was done and still hot I mixed in 1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh ginger. After overnight refrigeration, the bite of fresh ginger mellowed into a gentle spicy accent.
Now, as for my marmalade making days. . . They are not over. Stay tuned.
Kumquat-Lemon Dipping Sauce
I found an easy way to remove the seeds from kumquats is to work with a small, very sharp knife. Slowly cut just to the center of the fruit and you will encounter the seed. Simply turn the fruit while you cut then twist the 2 halves and pop out the seed. Occasionally, there are a couple of small seeds in there as well. Simple prod them out with the tip of the knife.
You can purchase Kaffir lime leaves in any Asian market. Dry leaves are also sometimes available in the Asian section of grocery stores. The Thai Kitchen is the brand I have seen most often.
2 lemons, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced (seeds reserved)
1 pound kumquats seeded and sliced (seeds reserved)
1 whole star anise
1 green cardamom pod, slightly bruised
2 whole cloves
1 Kaffir lime leaf
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon finely chopped lime peel
5 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
- Place lemon slices in a large sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until lemons are translucent, about 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
- Tie reserved lemon and kumquat seeds, star anise, cardamom pod, cloves, lime leaf and cinnamon stick securely in a piece of cheesecloth or a cotton muslin draw string bag.
- Return lemon slices to the sauce pan, add seed/spice bag, lime peel, kumquats and water. Bring to a boil over high heat then remove from heat. Cover and let sit 24 hours.
- Add sugar to the pot and cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. Remove the seed/spice bag and let it cool. Then squeeze it over the pot so that the pectin from the seeds drips into the pot. Be careful not to break the cloth.
- Continue to cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes and up to one hour.
By the way, it’s great over goat cheese, and frankly anywhere you would use a marmalade. Maybe with some green tea ice cream? Anything goes.