I love making New Year resolutions, and this year I outdid myself. Check out my list:
1. Be more generous (which happily goes hand in hand with the weekly dinner parties), 2. Experience Chicago to the fullest, 3. Finally put our wedding photos into an actual album (we’ve been married over three years now!), 4. Go to more garage sales, 5. Learn more about opera, 6. Can a homemade preserve, once a month, 7. Be more stylish, 8. Drink more water, 9. Drink more wine, 10. Collect and compile all of the Schoen family recipes into a little cookbook, and of course 11. Stop biting my fingernails (an annual member of the list)
It’s a big list, a bit daunting, but realistic too, I think, and after a month, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress. Some resolutions I’ve been really good about keeping (1, 5 & 9), some may take a little while to get rolling (4 & 8), some are pretty vague and not even measurable (2 & 7, but I’m working at ‘em), some technically don’t even have to be accomplished until the end of the year (3, & 10) so I’ve got time, and one has a very slim likelihood of ever actually happening (11, but I won’t be too hard on myself).
But it’s number six (Can a homemade preserve, once a month) that I’ll talk about today, in this first non-dinner-party-related blog post.
I’ve canned from time to time throughout the years, but all too seldom. I love having homemade preserves around the house, to eat ourselves or give away as gifts. It’s always a project I really get into – a great way to celebrate seasonal produce, and such a blast. But for some reason it’s one of those things that no matter how much I wish I did more of, I never do enough. So I decided that in 2010, this just had to change. And so arose New Year resolution number six. I’m even toying with the idea of holding onto a few jars from each month, and giving a whole year’s worth of homemade preserves as Christmas presents to some extra-special people.
Last week I made January’s preserve, Candied Kumquats. I’m simply obsessed with candied citrus – sweet and sticky, bright with tart citrus flavor - and when I found a great deal on some beautiful kumquats at the neighborhood fruit market (I mean, seriously cheap), I knew right away what my first monthly preserve would have to be.
A kumquat is a tiny, orange citrus fruit, about the size of a big olive. They’re kind of like mini oranges, just their flavors are inside-out – Their insides are sour and their skins are sweet. And they’re so cute too! Pretty photogenic, don’t you think?
You can eat them whole– just plop them into your mouth– although they’re pretty intense this way and I only ever eat a few whole ones at a time. And they’re really great for thinly slicing into circles and adding to salads. But my absolute favorite way to eat kumquats is candied.
Simmering for only a few minutes in a sugar syrup turns kumquats into tender, glossy, sugar-soaked confections. The syrup seeps into their every nook and cranny, saturating every cell and turning the tiny fruits into gleaming, nearly transparent jewels of bright orange. When I’m not eating them by whole spoonfuls, I like to drizzle them, along with their syrup, over vanilla ice cream, or on top of pancakes. They’re wonderful with all sorts of desserts, say like anything chocolate. And they’re perfect served alongside different cheeses, for an extraordinary cheese course. Or the syrup itself can be combined with seltzer or booze to create kumquat flavored cocktails. Yum! The uses are endless, but always incredibly delicious.