Kumquats are a dichotomy, tasting at once sweet from the interior and bitter from the skin. Contrary to what most Americans are prone to do, eating them whole -- as opposed to peeling them and only eating the fruit -- is the best way to enjoy the balance of both characteristics at once. You can easily prep the small orange fruits for other uses by simply slicing and removing the seeds. Kumquats can be enjoyed a myriad of ways from a sauce to an after dinner treat.
Use kumquats for a quick pan sauce for chicken and a playful take on the classic Duck a L'Orange. Saute chicken in a skillet and once it has cooked through, remove it and add a large shallot that has been peeled and sliced along with a large spoonful of sugar. Cook the shallots for one minute undisturbed, allowing the shallot to caramelize, then add three sliced kumquats, one-third cup of water, a big splash of vinegar and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Let this mixture cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the sauce has reduced to a syrupy consistency. Add some parsley for color and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over the sauteed chicken.
Make a salsa with kumquats to serve with grilled fish or chicken. After slicing and removing seeds from a pint of kumquats, chop them into small pieces. Add a large handful of chopped cilantro, a few tablespoons of chopped red onion, a large pinch each of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Add a large drizzle of olive oil to round out the flavors and let the mixture stand for at least an hour for flavors to meld. Store in the refrigerator if not using right away.
Kumquat jam, or marmalade, can be served as breakfast with toast, butter and cream cheese or as an elegant dessert when served over a simple cake, such as pound cake or olive oil cake, and ice cream. It is one of the easiest jams to make because kumquats have so much natural pectin. The only ingredients needed are fruit, sugar and water. For every two cups of sliced and seeded kumquats, use one-half cup each sugar and water. In a large, non-reactive saucepan such as stainless steel, combine these ingredients along with any additional flavoring agents you may enjoy: vanilla, cardamom pods or even Chinese five-spice. Let this mixture macerate for 15 minutes, then bring it to a boil over high heat. Stay close by since sugar mixtures can boil over quickly. Once the mixture boils, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the liquid has reduced significantly. Refrigerate and keep for 3-4 weeks.
Candied kumquats can be a beautiful addition to desserts as a garnish or or by themselves as a simple sweet at the end of a heavy meal. The ingredient list is the same as marmalade but the process is different. Cover a pint of kumquats with water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Drain them well then repeat these steps. This process, called blanching, removes some of the bitterness from the peel. For each pint of kumquats use one and one-half cups sugar and one cup water. Combine the sugar and water in the same saucepan and bring this mixture to a boil. Carefully add the blanched fruit to the syrup and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the fruit steep in the syrup unrefrigerated for eight hours. After it has steeped, bring the fruit and sugar back to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced. Store in a glass jar. Both the fruit and the syrup may be used.