Citrus season is an exciting time for those of us living in temperate zones. In fact, I know some who would argue that citrus is the only good thing about winter (I would retort that...
Okay, I'll be the first to admit it: my initial kumquat purchase was a total impulse buy. I thought they were quite possibly the cutest fruits I'd ever seen.
Being a child of the South means that I didn't grow up with a wide array of citrus fruits. In fact, I don't think I had even tried a grapefruit until I was in college. The only citrus I had any experience eating was oranges and clementines. And so, as you might imagine, kumquats seemed very exotic at first glance.
Kumquats are much like tiny, inside-out oranges--the flesh is sour and the peel is sweet. At least this is true of the oval variety. There is another, round variety of kumquat that has both sweet flesh and rind, although I must say I've never seen one of these in person.
To eat a kumquat, simply pop the whole thing into your mouth. There are seeds, so bear that in mind, but generally speaking, the whole fruit is edible. At first glance, kumquats are not the most versatile citrus fruit, but there are several ways to use its unique flavor to your advantage.
-Kumquats are excellent when candied--slice and simmer gently in a heavy simple syrup (1/2 part water to 1 part sugar) until they are translucent. The resulting kumquat compote can be treated much like marmalade, spread on toast, spooned over yogurt, or used to garnish desserts such as ice cream, cream pies, or mousses. Use the compote in cocktails to add sweetness and zest.
-Kumquats may be sliced raw and added to salads or fruit salads.
-Use them to infuse vodka for citrusy cocktails.
-Purée kumquats with the other ingredients in a vinaigrette.
-To add kumquat flavor to cakes, quick breads, or even cookies, process a couple seeded kumquats with the sugar called for in the recipe in a food processor until the kumquats are completely blended into the sugar.
-Simmer sliced kumquats in simple syrup until translucent. Strain the syrup and dredge the kumquats in sugar. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry. Use the sugared kumquats as garnishes for desserts or as a snack on their own. Reserve the flavored syrup for cocktails or a sweetener for coffee.
-Slice kumquats in half lengthwise and dip into equal parts coarse salt and sugar, cayenne or Thai chile powder to taste, and lime zest.
-Use kumquats as you would use oranges to make marmalade.
-Use in savory sauces for meats. Kumquats go especially well with pork, light-fleshed fish, and scallops.