I know what you’re thinking: “Candying made easy, indeed. Clearly it’s an oxy moron that only an insensitive foodie who happens to have been making candy since she was about 6 years old would think to be actually and truly descriptive of the candying processes below.” But before you balk, please note: You don’t need a candy thermometer to make either of these recipes. (Not that the candy thermometer is the bad guy in candying. If anything, he’s the only one who will never lie to you about how your candy is turning out. So you should befriend him – only scrumptious and impressive yet incredibly budget-friendly candy desserts will follow.) But I digress.
I adore most things ginger, and when someone suggested that a little chopped up candied ginger would be a delicious addition to my soft ginger molasses cookies, I sent myself on a mission. Turned out I didn’t have to search far, as one of my favorite experts on all things dessert, David Lebovitz, already had developed a recipe. And when I realized candied ginger could add that extra oomph to other desserts and dishes, and even garnish a cocktail or two, all the while having a couple-month shelf life, I was hooked. It certainly helped that candied ginger is super easy and cheap to make – and it seems much more impressive than it really is.
Kumquats, on the other hand, are not something I eat all the time – not because I wouldn’t like to (when eaten whole, they have an incredible citrus taste that is punctuated by the sourness of the fruit’s flesh and followed by the sweetness of the rind), but because they’ll run you $8/pound in supermarkets. However, I recently discovered that Jay’s aunt and uncle have a huge kumquat tree in their backyard. The tree was brimming over with ripe fruit, and as luck would have it, I was begged – yes, begged, and handed a large bag to boot! – to pick as many as I could and take them far, far away. And so I stepped up to the position of kumquat savior and saved as many fruits as possible from their otherwise inevitable decline into a sticky, messy graveyard of pulp and rinds.
I didn’t contemplate what I would possibly do with an entire grocery bag full of kumquats until I got home. I can snack on these little suckers like they’re candy. But after a few days, my snacking rate was only slightly ahead of the kumquats’ turning-squishy-and-moldy rate, and I was losing steam on the snacking front. Something had to be done. Then, I remembered boyfriend’s Vietnamese cousins mentioning that they traditionally preserved the kumquats for several months and turned them into the kumquat version of lemonade. I lack the space for such a long-term project, but it got me thinking as to other methods of preservation.
Of course, my favorite one came to mind first: candying. Candied kumquats preserved in a little bit of their own syrup should stay for at least a couple months in the fridge. They can be added to club soda with a teaspoon of syrup for a pretty and sweetly citrus-flavored drink, or to alcoholic beverages, chopped up and added to a salad, or featured in a dessert.
Stay tuned for a candied kumquat- and candied ginger-enhanced dessert post coming soon.
1 lb. (500g) fresh ginger, peeled
4 c. (800g) sugar, plus additional sugar for coating the ginger slices
4 c. (1l) water
pinch of salt
Slice ginger as thinly as possible. It can’t be too thin, so use a sharp knife.
Put ginger slices in a non-reactive pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let ginger simmer for ten minutes. Drain, and repeat one more time.
Mix sugar and water in pot, along with pinch of salt and ginger slices (see Storage note, below). Cook until liquid is the consistency of thin honey, or if using a candy thermometer, until temperature reaches 225F (106C).
Remove from heat and let stand for at least an hour (or up to overnight if you won’t be coating the slices in sugar). If you want to coat the slices with sugar, drain very well while the ginger is hot, so the syrup will drain away better.
Store ginger slices in its syrup, or toss the drained slices in granulated sugar. Shake off excess sugar, and spread the ginger slices on a cooling rack overnight, until they are somewhat dry. The sugar can be reused in a batter or ice cream base, or for another purpose.
Storage: The ginger, packed in its syrup, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one year, but David recommends adding a tablespoon or two of corn syrup or glucose to the sugar syrup when you mix sugar, water, salt and ginger in the pot. If tossed in sugar, ginger pieces can be stored at room temperature for a few months.
Candied Kumquats (from Bon Appétit, November 2007 on Epicurious)
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
8 oz. kumquats (about 25 medium), thinly sliced crosswise and seeds removed
Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add kumquats; reduce heat. Simmer until kumquat slices are translucent, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool kumquats in syrup. Strain kumquats, reserving syrup. Combine kumquats and 1/4 cup syrup in small bowl. Return remaining syrup to same saucepan; boil until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Notes: Can be made 2 days ahead; store kumquats and syrup separately in airtight container, and keep refrigerated. Kumquat syrup is delicious drizzled over cake or ice cream, or in a glass of sparkling water, a cup of tea, and countless cocktails.