As soon as I saw the overabundance of fruits on the kumquat tree in the backyard, I knew I had to preserve some of them. The process is simple – kumquats and salt in a jar (ta-da) – but the reward reveals itself like a time capsule.
It’s one of those things you take for granted, because, where I come from, a jar of preserved kumquats almost always magically presents itself when the need calls for it, like in the instance of a sore throat. Salted kumquats in hot water with honey stirred in are a long-held Chinese remedy for the ailment. But for you to reap the benefits today, someone's had to bury those plump little orange things in salt and wait several months for them to shrivel up and turn brown.
I could think of one such magic someone, so I contacted her for the recipe. According to Aunty Fiona, who lives in Sabah, Malaysia, salted kumquats keep for years, and “the older the better”. Considering the four jars I now have (and still a tree full of fruits!), this was good to hear.
I never needed an excuse to enjoy kumquat honey tea. There’s something comforting and at the same time invigorating about the blend of sour, salty and sweet flavors, which makes it just as good to soothe a sore throat as it is to quench thirst on a hot day. So I recently opened a five-week old jar of salted kumquats and made myself a cup. At this point, the slightly wrinkled fruits are soaking in brine formed by the juice they released, and still holding on to their orange color. Compared to older salted kumquats that I’ve used to make tea, this young jar produced a cuppa that’s lighter, brighter and just as delightful. And I am certain it will continue to develop with age.
Preserved Kumquats in Salt
Everyone has someone back home, wherever that is, they can call for a recipe reminder. Aunty Fiona from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah once made me kumquat tea and told me that it's super easy to preserve kumquats at home. This is adapted from her instructions.
Glass jar with lid
Wash kumquats thoroughly, towel dry and lay them out to dry in the sun for a day or two. Cover the bottom of a jar with sea salt followed by a layer of kumquats. Continue adding alternating layers of sea salt and kumquats until the jar is almost full. The uppermost layer of kumquats should be completely covered with salt. Close lid tightly and keep in a cool place for at least a few months.
Turn the jar every now and then to distribute salt evenly. Over time, juice will be released from the kumquats and form a brine with the salt. The kumquats will continue to dehydrate, shrink and get darker in color. Salted kumquats can be kept for years.
Kumquat Honey Tea
While it's better to use old salted kumquats, I've made it with 5-week old salted kumquats and the resulting taste is best described as lighter and brighter.
Put 2 to 3 salted kumquats (without the salt or brine, unless you like it really salty) in a glass and pour hot water over them. Muddle the fruits slightly with a fork and let steep for a few minutes. Add honey to taste. Drink it warm to help relieve sore throat or have it cold with some ice cubes for a refreshing drink in the summer.