I recently got an amazing package in the mail from my mother. It was filled with calamondins: leetle, teeny, tiny oranges with a super sour bite. They can be found, on a bush or small tree, in the tropical south zones. Originally from Southeast Asia, they have been planted here as an ornamental, but you know me, I'm wanna eat it! I received about five pounds (me to my mom after she sent me a small handful to inspect: "No, that's not enough, I need more"). So far I've started calamondins in gin, and salt-preserved calamondins. As it so often goes during this time of year, I'm a little marmaladed out. I was wracking my mind for something new. After paging through a million books, I settled on this recipe for Kumquat Preserves from this kooky book:
You probably have a stack of vintage cookbooks like these, right? I particularly like the ones that have canning sections even though you are not to follow them for canning, as they are outdated and possibly unsafe, as per USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation. However, my personal guidelines for these recipes are that usually fruit is a safe bet. I do my research, I compare recipes, I check the sugar, etc. I decided to can these at ten minutes. They are so high in acid, and the only other ingredients are sugar and honey, that I felt it was safe to can. But that's me. I'm crazy like that.
It is said that calamondins can be used in recipes like kumquats, but I don't know about that. Calamondins have very thin skin and are very juicy and filled with sort of big pits. More like a really small tangerine. I love these old recipes. They take a little while to decipher. Just a small paragraph and you're on your own. Which I like. I will note that I almost didn't add the 2 cups of honey the original asked for. 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of honey seemed like a lot to me. Then I realized that the honey is the glucose that keeps the sugar from crystallizing, so I quickly threw in a 1/4 cup of honey. It seems to have worked, but maybe I'm making that up.
I am really looking forward to these as a garnish for a drink, come the warmer weather. They are certainly candied yet very tart. Maybe with that calamondin gin I'm making. And don't forget about the nice syrup you get as a extra bonus! The most brilliant idea I came across for calamondins is to freeze them and use them as ice cubes. Maybe I can get my mom to send me some more...
adapted from My Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, 1940
Note: this is a three day or so procedure.
1 quart of calamondins
1 quart of water
2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
Calamondins, when plucked from the plant, will rip the stem right out of the skin. When you pick them you might want to use clippers or shears so that they stay intact until you need to use them. Otherwise, they shrivel up, and who wants that? When you are ready to use them, pull the stems gently out. You will have a small hole where each stem was. Perfect. If you were preparing kumquats, you would prick the skins. This is so they can absorb the sugar.
Soak the fruit overnight in salt water. 1 quart of water, 1 quart of fruit, 1 teaspoon of salt. Why? I don't know. Maybe you can tell me. I was skeptical, but strangely I did it.
Drain them. Cover with fresh water in a preserving pot and bring to a boil. Cook until tender. Which was a few minutes. These are very thin-skinned fruit. Drain.
Have this heating up in another good preserving pot: 2 cups of sugar, 4 cups of water, 1/4 cup of honey. Once this is simmering, add the drained, tenderly boiled fruit in. Simmer until the fruits look translucent, and the syrup is thick. (When did we stop spelling syrup sirup?) Pour this mixture into a glass bowl and cover with wax paper.
Let stand for two days.
Bring back to a simmer for ten minutes and cook until it looks right. For me that meant thick syrup, candied fruits. I ladled the calamondins into hot 4 ounce jars and processed in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. If you prefer, pour the whole lot into a quart jar, seal it. When it's cool put it in the fridge. They will probably last until you have a nice cocktail party. And then they will be gone!