Sunday, February 20, 2011

Candied Calamondins

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I particularly like the ones that have canning sections even though you are not to follow them for canning, as they are outdated and possibly unsafe, as per USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.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...

Candied Calamondins
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!

For more a-quat-ic inspiration go check out Michael's candied mandarinquats and Tigress' fermented sweet preserved kumquats!


  1. Jules, I would love to do a side-by-side comparison of a calamondin with a Rangpur lime. They are both odd duck hybrids in the citrus world -- the Rangpur being sour mandarin and lemon, not a lime at all. It seems that both have an edgy enough taste to put most folks off. I just found this:

    Cross-breeders think there is a possibility that the calamondin is a hybrid of lime and mandarin, or lime and kumquat, or kumquat and mandarin. There are two other citrus fruits called limes---the sweet lime and the Rangpur lime. Just like the calamondin, none of these is a true lime or of any commercial importance.

    No commercial importance? Well, that means more for us! I love my weird Rangpur non-limes, and I think I would love your calamondins, too.

    There was also a recipe for calamondin cake! (It's an old fashioned jell-o type cake that uses packaged cake mix but, you know what? I love those.) Maybe I'll try it with my Rangpurs -- and maybe next year we can do a citrus trade!

    Here's the cake . . .

    Oh! Shoot . . . I'm sorry to go on so long . . . I think the salt soak has something to do with dissolving some of the oil in the skin and leaching out some bitterness.

  2. Shae - Isn't it fascinating when you start reading up these strange fruits? Calamondins are very much related to limes. And I think I mentioned it in my other calamondin post, but in Asia they pick them green not orange. Much more limey looking! Next time I get them, I will definitely send you some. And indeed that may be next year.

    Here's another tidbit on the calamondin: like Meyer lemons, they will produce fruit from a seed. Stupidly, I did not save one seed. I've got too many little projects going!

    And yes, that's what I suspected: that salt was a bitterness leaching process.

  3. hello julia, yes, those calamondins... you're lucky to have gotten around to those. i've never tasted them, are they somewhat like all the other quats? incidentally research has it:
    these folk sell a little tree you could grow inside. yes, even upstate new york. i've done kumquats that way (in snowy new paltz) and now mandarinquats out here in portland. the candied variation is posted under quats at noodle-brains.blogspot.
    greetings from the left coast, m

  4. Meyers, calamondins, Rangpurs . . . all can be grown from seed. All are mandarin crosses (well, the calamondin probably is) -- what's the magic there, I wonder? I didn't save any Rangpur seeds either, but I did buy a little tree. :-)

  5. I used to have a rangpur lime tree when I lived in Mill Valley, Ca. I used the juice in margaritas, marmaladed them and also marinated chicken, fish and pork "Yucatecan style" with achiote. It was the perfect substitute for seville orange juice which is very sour. I miss them!!! Candied calamondins, yum. Use that syrup in margaritas this summer.

  6. Oh this is all too interesting. I have been trying to get to our big Asian grocery superstore to inspect the unusual citrus but so far haven't had a chance. I'll look for calamondins if I get there in time; don't know then at all...

  7. Michael - I loved your post on the candied quats, and probably was inspired by them, seeing as how I posted it on my Facebook page. Gorgeous photography, as usual. So, am I brain dead, or did you already tell me that you had lived in New Paltz?? I'll have to e-mail you because now I'm so curious as to where.

    Shae - You are a fruit farmer. For realz!

    Two by the Sea - Lovely! I will do as instructed!

    Sarah - I wonder if you can find them at all. Check a Malay market. Let me know if you find them, would you?

  8. Reading about these calamondins is making my mouth water from thinking about how tart they are! :] Maybe that recipe will work with other citrus fruits?

  9. Just when you think you've heard it all--it's amazing the variety of food there is out there! Next year you can check out the Zuni Cafe cookbook--she has a recipe in there for pickled limequats or kumquats or some other "quat" variety that you could use, perhaps. (Yes, I have an endless repository of recipe references in my head that I am never likely to make). Me, I couldn't even find quince this fall despite it being front and center in Martha Stewart living!

  10. You are so crafty. I'd never heard of these cute little citrus fruits. Fun experiment and I love the ice cube idea.

  11. Bey0ndthinking - The first time I got one, I popped it in my mouth and it was tart!! You can def. use this recipe for kumquats. I can't vouch for anything larger than that.

    Sara - Isn't it amazing? And now all these -quat mixes. Keeps us on our toes, yes? So sad you couldn't find quince! That was a great MSL layout.

    Denise - It just looks that way! I really wish I saved some to freeze.

  12. Do you think this recipe would work for lemons too?

  13. I have never heard of Calamondins, but I sure love what you have done with them!

  14. StarletStarlet - I sort of think that lemons might be too big. Of course, they can be candied, but I think the process might be a tad more involved. Calamondins and kumquats are great because they are tiny!

    Jenn- Thank you! And thanks for the visit. Didn't you live in Florida for a spell? Too bad you didn't see them then!

  15. Just procured some Calamodins (at a local grocery store!) and I'm trying to decide on a method to candy them.

    Question -- after the overnight soak in salt and the first boil, you "simmer until the fruits look translucent, and the syrup is thick." Roughly how long did this take?

    Also wondering how these turned out for you!! You're method definitely takes some time -- was it worth it?


  16. Rebecca - Wow! Cool. Where do you live?? You know, I can't rightly remember, but I'm guessing it was around 15 to 30 minutes.
    As for the taste? They are amazing. I had them in a cocktail the other day, and I loved them. The fruits themselves become a little shriveled, the peel gets candied, and the insides turn to sweet goo. It was totally worth it, but I don't candy fruit often and there might be an quicker route to take, to be quite honest. However,though it did take a few days, the actual work involved is very small! Let me know how they come out for you, either way!

  17. Thanks Julia. I live in New Zealand and have a large calamondin tree in my garden. I only figured out what they were recently - the people we bought the house off told us they were kumquats, but when I researched kumquats I realized they were different. I've been dreaming of doing something boozy with them (last year I made quince vodka, and a passionfruit liqueur - that recipe from Jane Grigson's fruit book, which is divine. I love your gin idea - is it just fruit, gin and leave alone for some time? Or did you add some sugar too? I've also been keen to bottle some of the fruit in syrup, so I'll try your recipe today. Thanks again!

  18. Kathryn - How amazing! A whole tree all to yourself. I love the calamondins in gin, it came out really, really nicely. I did add a bit of sugar; I think about a cup to a quart of calamondins and gin. Let me know how it comes out!

    (Sorry it took me so long to get back to you!)

  19. Starlet- Starlet...we think you try too hard.
    And proof in point is CALAMONDINS.
    And that's straight from KILLA WATT.
    And even JEB BUSH is getting sick of it.
    He's the LA connection - ADA.
    And California and TARANTINO got an ED MEESE with BALDWIN.
    And they're on DYST.
    With DATIL.
    And they do NESSESS.
    And WINESSE?
    Better tell CONYANDO.
    Better tell CONSLYO.
    Better tell CONYMAN.
    That there goes UTAH and SOMATIDS.