Kumquat Marmalade

It’s hard not to stop by a fruit stand filled with gorgeously colored gems, even if I am in a hurry. My first impulse is always to stop and touch and smell, admiring the lot and making small talk with the purveyor. That day we were in a mad rush to do one thing or the other, but as always, my eyes strayed to the colorful display. The man at the stall, seeing my eyes wander over his merchandise, quickly plucked what looked to me like a tiny orange, and placed it in my hands. “Kim kyat” he said. I assume it to be the little sister of the popular kyat-kyat (Mandarin orange). I look questioningly at him and he motions for me to bite. I raise my eyebrows, “Skin too?” He nods.

I am never one to say no to free food, so I take a bite. Definitely citrus. Even the skin has the distinct taste of citrus rind but…it’s…sweet! I take another, and yet another bite to verify this little observation. Yes, cute little citrus fruit with sweet edible skin! This is my lucky day! But we are in a hurry, so I have to leave the charming man and his delicious fruit. I vow to return though, because even as I am rushing off, there is only one word dancing in my mind, a word that sighed in my head the moment I tasted this fruit and its edible rind: marmalade.

When I get home I hunt for more info on kim kyat but I can’t find any. Hmmm. Searching, searching…little citrus fruit with sweet skin. Could this be a kumquat??? The name certainly sounds similar, and the pictures on the internet certainly look similar. I can’t be sure because I have never seen nor tasted a kumquat before. Yes, just like figs. I was again on the verge of adding another fruit to my stable. Hooray!

So I hurried back another day and got myself a kilo of the kim kyats/kumquats. I let them decorate my dining table for a couple of days (they make a gorgeous centerpiece! just pile them on a white platter or stuff them into a clear glass jar) before finally attempting marmalade for the first time.

I have made jam before, but never marmalade. I seem to have fallen into a jam-making thrall. Honestly, I probably would have gotten to something marmalade-y at some point, but tasting those tiny orange fruits put it on the fast track. To me they just tasted of marmalade, as if it was their life’s wish. So I dutifully complied.

Being totally inexperienced in the marmalade department, I didn’t bother with pips and cheesecloth and whatsuch. I took my 1 kilo of fruit (minus a few that I ate) and boiled them for about an hour, in enough water so they could all float pretty much freely. I then sliced them up and discarded the pips. After which they weighed 550 grams. I tossed them in a pot with 500 grams sugar and heated it slowly until all the sugar melted, and then let it boil until set (used the saucer in the freezer test).

I think I may have overcooked this batch because the resulting marmalade was a tad too sticky, but what an interesting flavor! It was sweeter than most marmalades I’ve tried (I assume because the rind was sweeter) but still had a tiny bite of bitter that makes it a marmalade. I gave a bottle to my mom, who loved it, but said it was a bit too sweet owing to her being a solid, non-sweet, rind’s-the-best-part, marmalade lover. I had some over a calamansi muffin my best friend K brought me back from a trip to Boracay (pictured above). And I’m sure it will be sublime on some warm toast with lots of butter.

Now I have a little stash of preserves and chutneys in my cupboard and like a besotted fool I peep at them randomly to cheer me up :) And they make great hostess gifts!