Spiced Kumquats

Citrus was abundant at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market in San Francisco last week.The oranges and kumquats were the sweetest I have ever tasted, and I couldn’t resist packing some to take home with me to Ohio.

Kumquats are a particular favorite of mine. They are unique in that they can be eaten whole as their sweetness is in their skins and their tartness in their flesh. Often used to make jams and marmalades, they become even more versatile when spiced. Served alongside pound cake, as a topping for ice-cream or waffles, added to a chicken dish or even mixed into seltzer or cocktails, spiced kumquats seem to breathe life into any dish they touch.
Crates of Miewa Kumquats at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market
Citrus, citrus everywhere!
Spiced Kumquats

Recipe from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook

2 lbs. kumquats, rinsed

2-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 stick cinnamon

6 whole cloves

2 cardamon pods

1/8 t. nutmeg

1 cup cider vinegar

Place the kumquats in a saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, covered.

In another saucepan, add the sugar, spices, and vinegar. Heat to dissolve the sugar, then raise heat to boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the kumquats, reserving the cooking liquid.

Add them to the spiced vinegar mixture using some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed to submerge the kumquats. Cook covered over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Remove the kumquats from the syrup and pack into clean and sterilized canning jars. Bring the syrup back to a boil to thicken slightly. Add to the kumquats. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks before serving. Use within 3 months.




Peach Jam

I was intrigued by this recipe from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. Not only did it call for peaches, it also included the kernels from the pits, and the leaves from the peach tree. And what exactly is a pit kernel? Well, inside each pit is a small kernel that will be chopped and infused during the cooking process to impart a wonderful almondy flavor to the jam. According to the author, Rachel Saunders, using all parts of the peach will add abundant flavor and complexity to the jam. Sounds interesting, right? When I saw these beautiful peaches at my local farmer’s market, I knew it was the perfect time to try this jam.

Use perfectly ripe fruit with good flavor. Under ripe peaches will be difficult to peel, while tasteless fruit will make mediocre jam.

End of Summer Yellow Peach Jam

recipe from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
6-1/2 lbs. Large ripe yellow freestone peaches, peeled
3 lbs. White cane sugar
3-1/2 oz. Strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-4 (12 inch) Branches with peach leaves

Peel the peaches by dropping them into simmering water for a minute or two. Drain and let them cool. Carefully peel the skins. Cut them in half, removing the pits and saving them in a dish for later use. Slice the peaches about 1/3 inch thick and place the slices into a large bowl or container.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment and allow to macerate in the refrigerator overnight.

Place the peach pits in a separate container and refrigerate overnight. I washed and spun dry the peach leaves, placed them in a perforated baggie and popped them into the refrigerator as well.

Next day, place 5 metal teaspoons into the freezer for testing the jam later. Remove the peaches, pits and leaves from the refrigerator. Extract the kernels from the pits by placing the pit inside a dish cloth and cracking it open with a hammer. You will need enough kernels to make 1 T. coarsely chopped. These get placed inside a tea infuser with a tight latch to keep the them from spilling out.

Transfer the peaches to a preserving pan or stainless steel kettle. Stir well to incorporate any undissolved sugar. Submerge the tea infuser and bring to a boil over high heat.

Boil, stirring for about 5 minutes.

Off heat, skim off the foam.

Mash half the fruit with a potato masher.

Cook 25 to 40 minutes until thickened, lowering the heat towards the end to prevent sticking or scorching. Test for doneness by placing a small amount of jam onto one of the teaspoons in your freezer. Return to the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes and check the consistency. If it’s too runny, continue cooking and test again. Off heat, skim off any remaining foam. When the cooking is complete, remove the tea infuser and add the peach leaves.

Allow to steep for a minute or two. Remove with tongs and discard. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ of head room. Wipe the rims clean, and fasten the lids. Process by setting the jars on a baking sheet and placing them in a preheated, 250F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cookie rack to sit overnight undisturbed. They will seal as they cool. The following day you can test them by gently feeling the top of each lid. If any of the jars did not seal, store them in the refrigerator.

Strawberry Basil Jam

Strawberry season in Ohio is short-lived, so when the berries are ripe, there is no time to waste. My plan was simple: make my way to the farmers market early in the morning, and buy at least 3 quarts of the juiciest, sweetest berries I could find, run home and make some jam.

In the past, I’ve had problems with the jelling process. Some fruits produced beautiful results, while others needed a boost. I began adding pectin, but didn’t like the  artificial consistency that resulted. Then I found a wonderful book to help me navigate through the process, The Blue Chair Fruit Jam Cookbook, by Rachel Saunders.

Recipe for Strawberry Basil Jam
adapted from
The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook

yields approximate 6-7 8 oz. jars
4 lbs. hulled large strawberries
2-1/2 lbs. white cane sugar
7 oz. strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh Basil to taste

Strawberries, sugar and lemon juice macerate overnight in the refrigerator covered for 24 hours.

Next day, place into kettle, cook over high heat skimming off the foam as it bubbles.  Place 3 spoons into the freezer. You will use them later to test the thickness of the jam.

The foam never seems to end, but it will eventually. Keep skimming!

Stir and scrape the bottom frequently to prevent sticking

When the jam appears shiny and thickened, turn off heat and test for proper consistency. Remove one of the spoons from the freezer. Place a small amount of jam onto the spoon and place back into the freezer for about 3 minutes. Check for doneness by tilting the spoon to see how quickly the jam runs. If it is not ready, continue cooking a few more minutes, and check again. When you have reached the right consistency,  turn off the heat and do not stir.  Carefully skim off any existing foam. Add a few sprigs of basil and allow to steep for a minute or two, then remove the sprigs and discard.

Pour into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4″ of room at the top, wipe the rims clean, and attach the lids.

It is now time to process the jars, either by submerging them in a water bath for 15-20 minutes, or by using the technique recommended by, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook of placing them on a baking sheet into a preheated 250F oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the jars and set them onto a drying rack to sit undisturbed overnight at room temperature. They will seal as they cool, but test them the next day to make sure there is a slight curve in the middle of the lid, indicating a proper seal. If any did not seal, store those jars in the refrigerator.