By Riki Shore
When I first moved to LA, now two years ago, I had a great lunch at Little Flower Candy Company. It was a simple salmon salad accented with thin slices of pickled kumquat.
I had never eaten pickled kumquat before that lunch and the way the teensy slivers packed an enormous punch of flavor astounded me. I’ve wanted to make pickled kumquats ever since.
In LA, kumquats, like all citrus, grow all over the place. It’s easy to find yourself with a pound of the jewel-like fruits for free, handed over by a friend or neighbor. In fact, this is probably what happened at Little Flower, and the cooks set to work pickling, candying and boiling them into marmalade.
But I live in North Carolina now, where citrus doesn’t naturally grow; it’s imported from Florida, Texas and California. If you want to eat kumquats (or lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits), you have to pay for them at the store.
This didn’t deter me the other day when I went shopping at Li Ming’s Global Mart, Durham’s largest purveyor of Asian foodstuffs. Li Ming’s is huge, clean and cheap. The kumquats were about $3 per pound, so I eagerly scooped up a bag to bring home, visions of that first salmon salad in my mind.
Once home, I trolled the Internet looking for recipes for pickling the little orange orbs. The recipes were all variations on the same theme. I jotted down some notes and came up with a final recipe based on the spices I had in my cupboard.
This was a snap to make and the pickles keep for four weeks, tightly covered, in the fridge. When I want to use them, I drain a few, then slice them as thinly as I can. They’re a sweet-tart accent on wild salmon salad, grilled chicken salad, braised greens, and pork scrambles. I’m sure you could find a use for them in a dessert too, but I haven’t ventured in that direction. Yet.
1 pound kumquats
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
6 black peppercorns
1 star anise pod
1 thin slice fresh ginger
1. Wash the kumquats, then slice them in half lengthwise. Remove any visible seeds from the fruit.
2. Place the kumquats in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let them stand 5 minutes. Drain well.
3. Place all the remaining ingredients in the pot and bring to a boil. Add the drained kumquats and simmer 2 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and pour into a large sterilized jar. Cover, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate up to four weeks. The kumquats will be ready to eat after 24 hours.