Preserved Kumquats


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.


We are doing something very different here, an experiment. When life gives you many citruses, it seems only natural to share what you won’t use with friends and family (that you like) or make marmalade, candy them, or preserve them in salt. Since we lived in California, I’ve always had excellent luck growing citrus, especially Meyer lemons and oranges. They usually go into marmalade or preserved lemons. Now, I’ve never done this with kumquats (I’ve tried limes – they lose their green color and turn an ugly brown so skip limes) and that’s our experiment today.

Need a marmalade recipe? Here’s mine for Seville and Bergamot and you can adapt it to whatever type of orange you have on hand.

Preserved lemons are an essential staple in my kitchen and in Morocco, the Middle East, and India. In India, lemons are preserved with salt and slices of fresh ginger and left exposed to the sun to cure for at least a month or more; chillies might be added. I sometimes throw in dried herbs or spices, but either way, no matter how you make them, preserved lemons are an excellent ingredient to keep in your kitchens.

The pulp is not eaten (though I’ve seen some commercial brands that say the pulps of their lemons are perfectly edible). It’s too salty IMO, and if rinsed, most of it flows away with the water because it is so soft.

I’d just finished making a batch of preserved lemons and shared a few photos on Facebook and came across a comment from reader David Kellet who mentioned how he’d also kept kumquats in addition to lemons. I must admit that I’ve candied kumquats in sugar syrup before but never preserved them in salt. David’s idea was brilliant, and I now had something to do with all those kumquats sitting on my little dwarf Nagami tree in the pot outside the house. It was time to make preserved kumquats happen!

The Flavor Equation cookbook has two recipes for making preserved lemons – a quick version and the traditional version.

This recipe is more of an experiment than a full-fledged recipe, and I’ll share updates on the kumquats as time progresses. I’m curious about the taste and fragrance, but having tasted and cooked with preserved lemons a lot, I’m sure they will be similar but a bit sweeter. There is no real recipe here because this is so simple to put together.

Salt + Fruit.

How much salt you use will vary by the size of the jar.

Preserved Kumquats

Salted, Squeezed, and Ready to Sit.

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The Cook’s Notes

  • Use a few small jars or one large jar. Make sure they’re clean and rinsed with hot water. I sterilize my cleaned jars in boiling water before I use them. Read this quick guide on how to sterilize a jar.

  • There’s no canning involved for this recipe, the process kicks off at room temperature and then in the refrigerator. The salt and acid prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, but it is still a very good idea to make sure you use clean and sterile jars.

Makes 1 lb/455g

1 lb/455g kumquats

1 cup fine sea salt or kosher salt or more as needed

Rinse the kumquats under warm running water to dislodge any dirt or debris. Take a clean sterile jar and place it on the counter. Cut the kumquats in half lengthwise and add them to the jar. Add half cup of salt. Press and crush the kumquats down to release as much juice as possible. The kumquats should be completely submerged in the salt and their juices, so press well. The heavier the spoon/ladle, the better. Cover the top with the remaining half cup of salt. If you need more salt, add a few tablespoons (it varies by the size of the jar). Seal the jar tightly with a lid, leave out in a cool and dark spot for 3 days. Shake the jar once every day to recirculate the juices inside the jar. Eventually, the salt will dissolve, and it will draw out even more juice from the fruit halves via osmosis and form a thick salty syrup. After the 3-day mark, store the jar in the refrigerator for at least 6 months. You don’t need to shake the jar anymore, though I like to occasionally for the arm exercise.

How to Use:

Use preserved kumquats exactly like preserved lemons. Rinse the kumquats with running water before use, scoop out and discard the pulp. Slice or dice the peels and use them in cocktails, desserts like cakes, ice cream, and in savory dishes to make salad vinaigrettes, add more flavor to mayonnaise or aioli, roasted meat, seafood, and vegetables.

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