One of the dangers of becoming a proficient canner is that every time you run across unusual, or interesting, or just exemplary fruits or vegetables, you are bound to buy a (usually unreasonable) quantity and find a delicious way to pack them into jars for safe keeping. So it was a few weeks ago, when perfect little pints of kumquats turned up in a market nearby.
For most of my life, my only exposure to kumquats was their annual appearance in my mother's Thanksgiving centerpiece. While we were assured that they were edible, peel and all, they were generally eaten only on a dare; in my experience, the bitterness of citrus peel holds little appeal for American children.
Last Thanksgiving, I bought a bagful of them for purely aesthetic reasons and fashioned my own centerpiece out of kumquats and pomegranates. One of my guests, an Argentinian woman, swooned over them and taught us all how to eat them properly: roll them between your fingers to release their juice, then bite into an end and suck out the insides and finish by eating the peel. Oddly, their sweetness is concentrated in the peel, which nicely offsets their assertive tartness. To my grown-up palate, kumquats are the ideal expression of citrus, with their perfect balance of sweet/tart/bitter/perfumed. When I found them this spring, it struck me that they would make a fine marmalade.