Question: Our new home has a kumquat tree in the yard. I would appreciate some idea of what to do with this fruit.
Answer: Since kumquats ripen in time for the December holidays, they can make colorful additions to seasonal decorations. Of course the fruit is also entirely edible, with the peel tending to be sweeter than the dry, acid flesh.
Generally speaking, kumquats are better eaten cooked; however, very ripe fruit may also be enjoyed raw. Kumquats are a popular condiment for curry recipes, as well as a common ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cooking. The fruit may be cut up or sliced and used for salads, fruit cups, compotes and relishes.
This recipe for Preserved Kumquats has been in The Times recipe files for many years. It will ensure that a personal supply is available throughout the year. The tiny, football-shaped citrus fruit also makes flavorful preserves, jellies and candied fruit--check canning books for additional recipes.
1 pound kumquats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
4 broken cinnamon sticks
Wash kumquats in warm water, then sprinkle with soda. Cover with boiling water and let stand 10 minutes. Pour off hot water, then rinse 3 times in cold water.
Cut tiny cross in blossom end of each fruit. Place in cold water to cover. Bring to boil and boil 15 minutes. Drain, add fresh water and repeat boiling process until fruit is tender.
Combine sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks with 2 cups water and bring to boil. Boil 5 minutes. Add kumquats and cook in syrup until fruit is transparent and syrup registers 222 degrees on candy thermometer.
Remove pan from heat and let kumquats plump in syrup overnight or longer. Drain kumquats, reserving syrup. Reheat syrup to boiling. Place kumquats in sterilized jars and strain hot syrup over fruit, filling jars to within 1/2-inch of top. Seal jars by processing in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Makes 3 to 4 half pints.
Q: We do not eat desserts at our house, but occasionally enjoy a Kahlua or creme de menthe after dinner. Nowhere can I find the caloric content of 1 ounce of these drinks. Can you help?
A: According to the book "Light Style, the New American Cuisine" (Harper & Row, 1979, $8.95), 1 ounce of creme de menthe has 94 calories. Kahlua representatives report that 1 ounce of their product contains 106 calories.
Q: Can anything be done to soften hard brown sugar? How does one keep it soft?
A: There are several ways to soften hard, dry brown sugar. The "New Doubleday Cookbook" (Doubleday, 1985, $16.95) suggests heating it, uncovered, in a 200 degree oven until dry and crumbly, then, if necessary, pulverizing in an electric blender. Those with microwave ovens may place the sugar and an apple slice in a microwave-safe glass measure, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on LOW one to two minutes.
From the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 11 (Fawcett Publications, 1966) comes the suggestion to place a wedge of apple, lettuce or fresh bread on a piece of wax paper inside the container of brown sugar for two days, replacing if necessary. To avoid hardening, they recommend keeping the sugar in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
In response to the June 12 You Asked About . . . column on removing odors from refrigerators and freezers, we received the following letter from Ginie M. of Downey:
"I know this is going to sound absolutely ridiculous, but after my freezer was off for a week, I tried all the remedies you suggested. I still had an odor in the freezer. Someone suggested wiping it out with vanilla. I was desperate enough to try anything. Lo and behold, it worked. My sister-in-law tried it later in her freezer and was also successful. Good luck to your readers."
The Times hasn't tried her suggestion, but desperation often leads to solutions to problems with unorthodox, yet quite workable, methods. If nothing else works, it certainly is worth a try.