July 2, 2015
My partner Johnny’s mom has an ultra green thumb. Whenever I see her, she showers me with ripe fruits and vegetables from her bountiful garden. During the summer months, I am lucky to receive scallions that are two feet long, fava beans, and sweet red tomatoes. But with the weather fluctuating so much these days, sometime her plants don’t bear fruit; many times she tells me she must let her soil rest another year.
One day, she brought me a bag of kumquats from her tree. So tart and juicy with a hint of bitterness from the peel, I found these citrus to be wonderful sliced up in salads. She brought us so much that I wanted to preserve its unique flavor. I was inspired by Kuishinbo’s recipe for her grandmother’s stewed shochu kumquats, and instead of making them into a sweet snack, I made something drinkable!
1 pound of kumquats
1 cup raw cane sugar or rock sugar
720ml white liquor (I used sweet potato shochu)
2 liter canning jar
1. Wash the kumquats and de-stem them.
Here’s the real reason why the kumquats sat in my fridge for over a week: I dreaded slicing them. They are tiny jewels and I really dreaded having to cut them up into tiny slivers. I am lazy.
And take out all the seeds!
2. Put sliced kumquats into the jar.
3. Add sugar.
Now, the ratio for sugar is tricky, and I went really conservative by stating here to only used 1 cup of sugar. I made yuzu liqueur last year and it simply is too sweet. So the idea is to pull back off of the sugar and add it if it needs it, within the first few months of making the liqueur. It is also a balance between the proof of the liquor you are using — if you are using a high proof liquor, you may want to consider using more sugar.
I used traditional rock sugar I found at a Japanese market for this kumquat liquor.
4. Add shochu.
You want to make sure that the liquid goes all the way to the top, so there’s not a lot of air trapped in the jar. There was some space left so I added some aguardiente (hooch!) made by Johnny’s dad.
5. Seal lid and don’t forget to LABEL LABEL LABEL. You’d be surprised at how you’ll lose track of the liquor you used and when you first made it.
We’ve made a lot of variations of liqueurs on Umami Mart. There was Yoko’s umeshu (plum liqueur) and biwashu (loquat liqueur), and I’ve personally made both of these liqueurs along with a yuzu experiment last year. Citrus is difficult to infuse with however, since the rind is so bitter. My yuzu liqueur turned out too sweet (too much sugar? Or maybe it was the raw cane sugar) and bitter (I didn’t take the peels out soon enough). I still need to fix this liqueur, either by diluting it a bit with water or simply adding more liquor.
So I’m hesitant to write out this “recipe” here as it has all been trial and error with these liqueurs I’ve made thus far. The umeshu I made two years ago is quite subtle in flavor — maybe I did not add enough sugar, or maybe vodka is not an ideal pairing for the ume. But I’m happy to report that after two weeks since making the kumquat liqueur, it is not too sweet nor too bitter; and such a nice fragrance from the kumquats! Only time will tell.