Kumquat Marmalade

This recipe was so STUPID.  SO STUPID, in fact, that it took me two tries to get it right, and I only got it right after ignoring all the previous instructions.  So in fact I will not even link you to this stupid recipe that I used for fear of it tainting me with its idiocy.  I take full credit for this, seeing as I had to fix it.  MANY TIMES.  What I present below is the CORRECT way to do it, and should produce about 4 pints of marmalade.

If you’ve never had a kumquat, you should try one.  Sweet and bitter at the same time, it’s definitely an experience.  I like to think of them as tasty breath-fresheners.  Your first bite will be sweet, then as you crunch through the skin, the citrus oils will clear out your palette.  Quite refreshing, actually.Make sure you pick kumquats that are firm and don’t have any squishy spots.  Use them soon after you buy them because they go quickly.

Wash and remove the stems from 24 fresh kumquats

Slice them thinly across the middle, and remove the seeds.

Make sure you keep the seeds.

This is where all the pectin-y goodness is. 

There’s pectin in the pith as well, but not as much.

Slice 2 oranges across the middle as well. 

I used Navel oranges.  This seedless fruit is neat because it reproduces by growing a new orange in its belly button (or navel), which is that thing you see at the opposite end to the stem.

This orange reproduced another whole orange inside.  How cool.  I bet it would have been confusing to eat had I peeled it normally.

I found it was easier to can the marmalade if you make cuts in the orange peel so it breaks apart and is therefore smaller.

Toss the orange slices and the kumquat slices together in a measuring cup and see how much you have.

Chuck them in a large bowl and add 3 cups of water for every cup of fruit you measured.  I had 5 cups of fruit so I added 15 cups of water.  Leave that to sit overnight.

The next day, pour your fruit and water into a large saucepan (this is why I love our maslin pan so much).  You may find some jelly-like stuff at the bottom of the bowl.  I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s important, so scrape that stuff off and put it in the pan as well.

Bring the stuff in the pan to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer it until the rinds are very tender and you can squish them with your spoon.

Juice 2 lemons.

Pour that lemon juice, together with 9 cups granulated sugar, into the maslin pan.

Tie up your seeds in a bit of cheesecloth and add that to the pot as well.

Bring the mixture to a boil again, then simmer on low for a couple of hours.

The mixture will cook down, reducing in size, getting thicker and darker.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and keep stirring it.  When it starts to foam, you are nearing your gel point.

You can tell if your mixture is ready to gel by putting a plate in the freezer for a few minutes.  Remove the plate and drip some of the liquid across the plate.  Once it has cooled, give it a push with your finger.  If it wrinkles up, your marmalade is ready to go into the jar.

When you have reached the stage where your foamy marmalade goo is wrinkling on your cold plate, you can can it according to your canner’s instructions.  Check out our tips here.

Christmas Fruit Cakes

My mother calls them fruit cakes.  My father calls them Christmas cakes.  Or it’s the other way around.  I can’t keep track of those two.

Nevertheless, before every holiday season, my dad makes between two and three dozen of them to give away to all their family and friends.  Being the stalwart Scots that we are, we fight over who deserves a whole cake and who gets only a slice.

You can’t be ambivalent about fruit cake.  You either love it or you hate it.  And I can promise you that this is not the leaden, dry, horribly frosted version that you hate.  This is the ooey-gooey sticky sweet and moist brick of goodness that you will LOVE.  Guaranteed.

Keep in mind that this recipe is easy to make.  Especially if you make several dozen.  However, you have to start your preparations the day before and baking time can take up to four hours for large cakes.  Not to mention that you can’t eat them right away — these cakes need a spell before they’re good to eat.  These ones here are from back in 2007.  They should be super excellent now.

Day the First:

In a large bowl, measure in 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds (blanched is key because the skin is bitter), 2 cups dark raisins, 2 cups light raisins, 1 cup currants, 2 1/2 cups chopped dates, and 2 1/2 cups candied citron peel.  My dad says that when making several batches it helps to bring a measuring cup to the health food or bulk store and measure what you need right into the bag so you don’t have to worry about having any leftover.

Drain a 12oz (340g) bottle of maraschino cherries, saving the juice.  The cherries should measure about 1 1/4 cups.  Add them to the mixture in the bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup brandy (or fruit juice, if you prefer) and give it a stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature overnight.

In a heavy saucepan, simmer one 19oz (540mL) can crushed pineapple with 2 cups granulated sugar.  Cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 45 minutes.  Make sure to stir frequently. 

By the end, the sugary pineapple should measure 2 1/2 cups.

Let the pineapple cool, and then stir in 1/2 cup reserved cherry juice.  Stir in as well 1 cup strawberry jam (the more all-natural, the better).  This doesn’t necessarily need to be done the day before, but it has to be cool before you add it to the cake batter.

Day the Second:

Preheat your oven to 275°F.  Butter your pans (we use four regular-sized loaf pans) and line them with parchment paper.The knob on our oven is positioned badly so we take the knob off in order not to hit it accidentally.  And yes, we probably should clean our oven more often.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

Add about a cup of the flour mixture to the fruit and nuts and toss until the bits are all covered.  This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom when you mix them in the batter.  Set the rest of the flour aside for now. 

In another large mixing bowl, cream together  2 1/4 cups granulated sugar with 1 pound (2 cups) butter.

Beat in 12 eggs (yes, 12!), two at a time.  This is less of a pain in the butt if you have someone crack the eggs while someone else runs the mixer.

Take your flour mixture and your pineapple mixture and, alternating them, stir them into the butter and egg mix.  Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions and stir it all in well. 

Your batter will be a lovely pink colour once you’re all ready.

Pour over your flour-coated fruit and nuts and mix well. 

Pour into your pans and chuck them in the oven.

Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to keep the cakes moist.

Bake in your oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, for the larger cakes.  Smaller cakes might be done in about 3 hours. If you have a fast oven you might want to lay a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent them from drying out in the last hour or so.

The cakes should be fairly firm to the touch in the centre and should test clean with a toothpick.  Once you’ve removed the cakes from the oven let them cool in the pans for about five minutes. 

Then remove the cakes from the pans and peel off the paper.  Let the cakes cool completely.

Now you do your wrapping.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on your work surface.  Overlay that with some plastic wrap.

And some cheesecloth.

Plop your cake in the centre.

Baste it generously, all over, with rum or brandy (if you don’t baste you will need to keep the cakes in the refrigerator).

Wrap the cheesecloth tightly around the cake.  Then the plastic wrap.  Then the aluminum foil.

As the cloth dries out, give your cakes a periodic dousing with rum or brandy.  Don’t freeze the cakes or the flavours won’t mellow properly.

The cakes will make good eating in about three weeks, just in time for the holidays.