This is a celebration of the first snow fall of the season and in typical New York fashion it was not subtle. All plans canceled, I got to stay in and cozy up to more Law & Order marathons, marvel at the miracle of citrus in winter, prepare soups and stews and experience the normally-busy streets of New York as empty and quiet. Traipsing down the middle of the avenue, wind and snow in our faces, seeing only the silhouette of other brave New Yorkers felt oddly like a scene out of the Walking Dead.
As a kid I always invented excuses to go outside during storms and survey the scene. When I was really little it was to snow tube down the hill. When I was old enough to drive it was to get gummy bears using the four wheel drive. But my favorite excuse was when my dad used to tie our toboggan sled to the back of his truck and drive my siblings and me around our yard in the most fun (and possibly most dangerous) sleigh ride ever. You had to hold on for dear life trying not to fall off, hit a tree or slide under the car if he stopped while going down hill. Terrifying fun. I guess the adult city version of that is watching people ski down the avenues where the cars usually fly by as we braved the storm to see if the liquor store was open (it was!). And when play time was over outside I was happy to put all of our wet gear out to dry in the bathtub, pop that bottle and get to work on bringing the sunshine back through these beautiful kumquats.
Kumquats, like little lemons or oranges, are sweet and sour little gems that you can pop in your mouth whole, skin and all. They do have pits so though so you have to do some navigating. The skin actually is sweeter than the fruit here, which makes eating them whole more desirable. If they’re too tart for you, then candying (is that an actual gerund?) them is the way to go. The whole ordeal takes about 15 minutes and it yields a colorful jar of candied sweet citrus that adds a punch to anything, sweet or savory. I threw them into a fennel salad with cilantro (recipe to come) and then used them in the morning spread over my go-to waffles. They’ll also be found as decorations on a mini cake recipe I’m working on. I opted for the syrupy version of them, but you can also lay them out to dry or dry them in the oven to make a dehydrated candy-like version of them too.
Today it’s back to work as usual through the snow and sunshine. It’s still that phase where things look pristine and beautiful and everyone is carefully and cordially navigating the streets. We haven’t moved to grumpy, slushy stage yet. I hope you’re all staying warm and dry and that you have a wonderful January week. I’ve got some good stuff coming up that I’m excited to share with you. Be well!
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 ounces kumquats (about 14), each cut crosswise into 4 slices, seeded
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1 star anise pod (optional)
Bring water and sugar to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add kumquat slices. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until kumquats become translucent and tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Cool.
At this point, you can dry the kumquats into a candy, store them in syrup, or can them in jars for longer storage.
Transfer the kumquats to an airtight container, cover with syrup, add the star anise and cinnamon stick, cover and refrigerate. Kumquats are best consumed within a week.
Using a slotted spoon, remove each kumquat from the syrup and gently press down on the top and bottom to flatten it into a flower shape. This is also a good opportunity to press out any remaining seeds. Dry the kumquats on a baking rack, on a parchment-lined baking sheet in an oven at 200°F or below, or in a dehydrator at 135°F. Drying time depends on the method, conditions, and fruit size; in a dehydrator it takes about 8-12 hours. The candies are ready when they are pliable and no longer very sticky to the touch. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Kumquats are best consumed within a week.
Candied kumquats can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Note: Some recipes call for blanching the kumquats 3 times to remove some of the sourness. I don’t do that, but if you wish, fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the kumquats and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the kumquats and drain. Repeat this process two more times (three times total), using fresh water each time.