Bitter-sweet melody

I never know what to do with cumquats. They’re so pretty, and the taste is so wonderfully sharp, I always feel they’re something that should have a load of uses.

Leave the halved cumquats to cook for about two hours.
Leave the halved cumquats to cook for about two hours.

But usually, on the rare occasions I have some, they just sit there looking a bit neglected.

There’s marmalade, but I tend to get given a few of them (I have a few friends who are dedicated makers of marmalades), and really don’t need to make any more. There’s a wonderful candied cumquat steamed pudding (courtesy of Maggie Beer), but it’s quite a palaver. Once was wonderful, but that was probably enough.

And so, anyway, there I was with a nice little bowl full, a gift from a friend. Not that many, but I hate wasting good produce so I knew I was going to do something with them.

And so this very simple and magnificently bitter-sweet little jelly is the result.

Cumquat jelly

Cut the cumquats in half, put them in a pot and just cover them with water. Cook gently for a couple of hours. Add some more water if it seems to be running low.

Strain the liquid through a clean cloth – a tea towel or muslin. Let it drip for a few hours, or overnight. Put a couple of saucers into the freezer so you’ll be able to check the set.

This makes a pretty, bitter-sweet jelly.
This makes a pretty, bitter-sweet jelly.

Measure the liquid. Weigh out an equivalent of sugar. For example, I had 120ml of liquid, so I weighed out 120g of sugar.

Combine them in a pot and bring to a rapid, bubbling-over boil.

This jam gets to setting point very quickly, so check the set as soon as it gets to that high-bubbling boil. You do that by putting a couple of drops of the liquid onto one of your freezer saucers and putting it back in the freezer for 20 or so seconds. Take it out and prod at the liquid. If it wrinkles in front of your finger as you push it, it’s ready.

Pour into hot jars and put the lids on.

Verdict: Surprisingly easy and beautifully bitter-sweet. I think it would be great in a pudding, or on toast.


Corinna Hente


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