A few weeks ago my mother in-law arrived at my house with bags of kumquats she’d picked from a friend’s orchard. The day before I’d happened to have lunch at Chez Panisse –well not just happened, it was an every-five-years lunch tradition with a dear classmate from college Home Ec – and we’d raptured over a buttermilk panna cotta with kumquat marmalade. So it didn’t take long for me to decide marmalade would be perfect with those kumquats. My favorite recipe is from another colleague, Jeane, who’s made this simple marmalade for years. If you can buy about half pound of kumquats, that’s all you need for this recipe, or use lemons or oranges which would also be delicious with panna cotta.
For the panna cotta, I suggest Orange-Buttermilk Panna Cotta that I developed for Driscoll’s Berries. If you’ve never tried panna cotta, which means “cooked cream” in Italian, it’s a light custard-like chilled dessert. And it’s a great make-ahead recipe for company.
1 cup thinly sliced kumquats (remove as many of the seeds as possible), or quartered, seeded, thinly sliced lemons or oranges
2 cups (approximately) granulated sugar
1) Combine the fruit and 2 cups water in a 4 cup measuring cup or bowl. For lemon or orange marmalade you can replace 1/4 cup of the water with juice for a more citrusy flavor. Let stand several hours or overnight.
2) Put the fruit and water in a 4 or 6 quart-size saucepan. (A wider diameter saucepan will allow the marmalade to cook down faster.) Add sugar, using more or less sugar depending on the tartness of the fruit and your preference for sweet. I liked the kumquat marmalade with about 1-1/4 cups sugar; Meyer lemons 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups.
3) Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until reduced by almost half, and the liquid is slightly syrupy. Watch carefully because it can quickly boil over. Observe the bubbles. When they become smaller and closer together on the surface the mixture will be syrupy. It will thicken more and should become jam-like as it cools.
4) Pour into jars and cover. Cool. Keep refrigerated. Makes about 2 cups.
Check the depth of the marmalade with your spoon when you start simmering so you can see when it is reduced by half.
Test a drizzle of the liquid on a dish to see if it thickens as it cools. If the marmalade is too thin after it’s jarred, you can briefly reboil to thicken further.
I do not heat-seal the marmalade since the recipe makes a small quantity. It keeps refrigerated 3-4 weeks. Freeze for longer storage but be sure the container has room for expansion.