You’re at the corner deli picking up some dinner items. You pass a row of four-day old sushi, milk cartons that expire in approximately 15 minutes and a few plastic containers stuffed with browning leaves that read cilantro. There, in the unappealing produce section, is a bountiful basket of unidentifiable fruit. Only in this city can you find a handful of flawless and flavorful kumquats, but no good-looking romaine. The fruit selection at a particular bodega or 24-hour corner store reflects the appetite of the local residents. This is a testament to the city’s incredible diversity.
How can you incorporate a lemon with eight fingers into a pasta dish? Or a gnarled lime into a steak dinner? How about those little oval oranges tossed into chicken tacos? Although these unusual varieties of fruit may not have universal applications they do have traditional culinary uses. Take the fingered lemon, for instance. It’s proper name is Buddah’s Hand or Fingered Citron and it can be used in a number of ways. The skin can be peeled and candied or used to make marmalade. In India, it is often hung in the center of a room for both decoration and to give off a citric aroma. The gnarled lime, also known as the kaffir lime, is indigenous to Southeast Asia and the leaves attached to the lime are the magical ingredient that give Thai curry its wonderful fresh taste. But the best of all is the kumquat. We’ve all been trained to peel citrus fruit before we eat it, but not the kumquat, my friends. This little sucker just gets washed and sliced in half (to remove the seeds) and then can be popped right into your mouth for chewing enjoyment. They’re a bit tart, but you’ll come to adore them.
This time of year the citrus family is in season in many parts of the world. So while you’re at the deli shopping for some American pantry staples or a six-pack, grab a palmetto (a green grapefruit the size of a volley ball) or a fingered citron and give it a try. Ugly fruits need love too.
1 1/2 pounds kumquats
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
Halve all of the kumquats and remove the seeds. Place them on the flat side and slice them thinly. Then place the fruit in a large pot filled with water, and let sit overnight. Bring the pot to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about half an hour. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil, once more. Skim the surface if foam begins to build up. Once the marmalade looks like jelly (probably about 15 minutes more), transfer it to a jam jar. If you’d like to seal it properly, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Place the sealed jar in the hot water bath for five minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs and let the jar cool. Wow, you just made marmalade.