Citrus season abounds. I can’t seem to buy fruit quickly enough around here! We are eating oranges and satsumas and tangerines every day – I even ate a Meyer lemon when a craving for citrus hit and the fruit bowl was empty. Citrus’ bright flavor is a burst of sunshine during these winter months and just what we need to tide us over until the first whispers of spring arrive.
With lemons, limes and oranges spilling over at the markets, I decided to revisit marmalade. I have not been a real fan of marmalade in the past ... eating peels never really grabbed me. But I do like kumquats and happily eat them sliced, peel and all, in salads. Having never cooked with them before, I began to wonder if they would open me up to marmalade?
Kumquats are pretty adorable. Tiny and cheery in appearance, they have a thinner, sweeter skin that is much more appealing for me to eat. Perfect for marmalade! As thoughts of marmalade evolved, I knew I wanted to include some other flavors to round out the tartness of the kumquats. My brother and his family are living in Vietnam and sent us some plump vanilla beans and fragrant cinnamon sticks over the holidays. Adding the warm, cozy flavors of vanilla and cinnamon sounded just marvelous and I headed to the kitchen.
The pot of marmalade bubbled away on the stove and the scent was intoxicating. After cooling a bit, I gave it a taste. Flecked with specks of vanilla bean and a hint of cinnamon, citrusy and sweet from a bit of honey – yes, I had found my marmalade!
I was inspired further and decided to bake with the kumquat marmalade. I chose the barley flour scones from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, where the marmalade is baked in the center. They emerged tender and buttery from the oven, with bits of kumquat peeking out. Let me tell you, nothing cheers a dark winter afternoon like a marmalade-filled scone and a cup of tea!
Kumquat Vanilla Bean Marmalade
Makes 1 cup
12 ounces kumquats, thinly sliced, seeds removed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and pod reserved
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups water
In a medium sized sauce pan, combine all the ingredients (including the reserved vanilla pod) over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Give a stir, partially cover the pan, lower the heat and let simmer until very soft, about 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes more to thicken a bit, stirring to prevent sticking or burning.
Remove from the heat and let cool. Take the vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks out and spoon the marmalade into a clean jar. Cover and pop into the fridge (it will thicken further as it chills). The marmalade will keep for a month in the fridge.