15 April 2011
Tea Sweetened Kumquats
Aren’t they cute? In appearance Kumquats resemble miniature oranges. They are bite-sized and a cheery golden orange color. Shaped like tiny suns they hint of warmth and light. They are like the memory of a dream in this cool grey stretch of springtime in the Pacific Northwest.
The surprise comes when you embrace the dream, throw caution to the wind and pop this irresistible little fruit into your mouth, whole. First there is the slightly bitter blush of citrus rind on your tongue. Then, as you boldly bite down, a tart pucker tugs at your cheeks and the sour taste of the juice registers in your mouth. Pow!
Kumquats constitute a tiny adventure all their own. Depending on your personal sense of taste you are likely to be either deterred or delighted by the experience of this diminutive fruit. For my part I was thrilled to discover the newness of kumquats, a fruit I had never even seen until a few years ago. Despite my delight I have never ventured to buy more than a handful of kumquats when I have stumbled across them at the market. While they are quite interesting I would not describe them as delicious. Fresh from the produce aisle they are more a late winter curiosity than a scrumptious flavor I am eager to indulge in.
Last week I ran across another bright display of kumquats on the produce aisle. Once again I was charmed by the optimistic brightness of this plucky little fruit. I grabbed a large handful determined to discover a recipe that would enhance the kumquat’s sunny assets.
In a quick google search I learned that kumquats have long been cultivated and favored in Japan. Turning to my Japanese influenced cookbooks I found a simple recipe for kumquats in Bettina Vitell’s “The World in a Bowl of Tea.” It was beautiful in it’s simplicity but I could not resist tweaking it. Here is my tea-infused version of her recipe. I hope it inspires you to bring more of this promising little fruit to your own table.
Tea Sweetened Kumquats
2 teabags (I used peach flavored white tea)
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
Poke each kumquat a couple of times with a skewer.
Place kumquats in a saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a low boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drain. Set aside.
Using the teabags, brew two cups of tea according to package directions. Pour the tea into the saucepan and stir in the sugar.
Over low heat, bring the tea mixture to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Return the kumquats to the saucepan and loosely cover.
Simmer kumquats for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
Store kumquats in a glass container with the cooking liquid. Refrigerate until chilled through. Drain the marinade before serving and reserve it for another batch, if desired. Serve the drained kumquats in a small decorative bowl.