I remember as a kid that my parents had a kumquat tree in the back yard. Every year it would bear tiny oval orange fruit and every year they would eventually fall off and rot. It is a shame thinking back now, as they are piquantly delicious when made into jams, marmalades and preserves.
We changed the menu at the restaurant today and one of the entrees is grilled quail with kumquats, verjuice and bitter greens. The kumquats are pickled in a highly spiced, white wine vinegar based solution and have a tantalizingly sweet acidity that cuts through the richness of the quail beautifully. Team it with some bitter greens such as rocket, a sweet verjuice dressing and you will end up having a little mouth circus thing going on.
The pickled kumquats go well with most rich poultry such as duck and they could even enliven a roast chicken by placing a few in the cavity before roasting. They are unbelievably simple to make, taking only a few minutes actual cooking time and if you package them up nicely, they make a wonderfully personalized gift.
1 kg (2 lb) Kumquats, washed
500 gm (1 lb) caster sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) verjuice
180 ml (3/4 cup) dry white wine
500 ml (2 cups) white wine vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
Bring all the ingredients except the kumquats to the boil in a heavy based saucepan. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Place the kumquats into one large or several small sterilized jars and pour over the hot pickling solution. Cap tightly and leave at room temperature for 3 weeks to mature and let the flavours infuse.
These pickles keep well for at least a year, as long as you sterilize you jars well and refrigerate after opening. If you have trouble finding verjuice, make up the difference in white wine
To serve, remove a few kumquats and slice thinly. Mix with a little of the pickling solution and scatter through your next poultry dish.