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What to Do With an Overload of Kumquats

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We're serious about keeping farmers market produce on the menu all year long. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra Cooks shows us how to store, prep, and make the most of it, without wasting a scrap. 

Today: Alexandra gives us some very good reasons why an overload of kumquats is a blessing, not a curse -- plus a three-ingredient, ten-minute condiment to keep on hand from here on out. 

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As I listened to Matt Etchemendy, chef of Ichabod’s on Irving Place, describe how he makes his “dirty-wild” freekah, I couldn’t help but think what fun it would be to cook in his kitchen -- to have tubs of juniper-infused salts to rub into duck breasts, pints of mirepoix ready to sauté with pre-cooked grains, and compotes of all kinds to serve alongside seared meats and stacks of buttermilk pancakes.

While I know that some parts of restaurant work -- the hours, the stress, the demands -- don't translate well into cooking at home, the concept of mise en place need not exist in restaurants alone. There is nothing stopping me from setting aside a day to make salad dressings and stocks, to cook grains and beans, to make a few loaves of bread with the goal of bringing ease to the days that follow.

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One day I’ll get there, but my conversation with Matt did inspire me to make his quick-candied kumquats, a condiment I’ve now had on hand all winter. The method is simple: Just slice some kumquats, place them in a clean glass jar, and pour simple syrup overtop. The kumquats are ready to be used as soon as the mixture cools, and they'll keep in the fridge for months. When candied, they offer a bright, sweet counterpoint to simple roast chicken and pan-seared duck breasts -- any poultry, really -- instantly dressing them up and rendering sauce-making unnecessary.

And they're a condiment that keeps on giving: When my stash gets low, I purée the remaining slices with a splash of their simple syrup to make a lovely spread for morning toast. While I haven’t gotten too creative with the leftover kumquat-infused simple syrup yet, the possibilities are endless: as a flavoring for cocktails and mocktails, as a soak for quick breads and cakes, or as a base for sorbets.

As you’ve likely gathered, my C.S.A. is not the source of my kumquat overload -- my local grocery stores have had California or Florida kumquats in stock since January. So while we in the Northeast could only hope to be overloaded with local citrus this time of year, many of our friends in sunnier parts likely are.

When I lived in California, in fact, I never knew what to do with my surplus of C.S.A. kumquats. With the exception of one fairly successful kumquat upside-down cake, I had never found purpose for the pounds of kumquats I'd receive -- I'd inevitably find them rotting through their brown paper bag in the bottom of my vegetable bin. Such a shame! If only I had known how to make these quick-candied kumquats.

Choosing and storing your kumquats:
Choose kumquats with smooth, shiny, and unblemished skins, and store them in a bag in the fridge. Use within a few days, as they spoil quickly.

Prepping your kumquats:
Kumquats have edible skins, which means they need not be peeled before using. Do wash them, though, and remove any stems that are still intact. If you're slicing them, discard seeds as you work, and remember that a few small remaining seeds won’t do any harm.

Using your kumquats:

Quick-Candied Kumquats

Makes 2 cups

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 pint kumquats

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Alexandra Stafford

Tags: kumquats, jam, simple syrup, spreads