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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kinkan No Kanroni (金柑の甘露煮)

We are reaching the end of prime citrus season, and I feel myself trying to make it last. Growing up on an citrus orchard in Southern California, citrus are my favorite fruits. The color, the smell, the tang, everything about it is simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. I favor the sour citrus over the overtly sweet, and kumquats have been a favorite since I was a child.

My parents have two dwarf kumquat trees, and I remember going to the Fullerton arboretum to pick out the second one, so small they pulled me around in a wagon. Kumquats are tiny citrus, about the size of a big grape, with a sweet thin edible skin and a pucker-inducing sour middle. Their only downside in my opinion is that the seeds inside can get rather large. The small seeds are edible, in fact you won't even notice them, but the big seeds are larger than orange seeds and are not very tasty.

You can leave the seeds in, and just remove them when you use the kumquats. That will save a lot of labor upfront, but I deseeded mine because I wanted to be able to just pop the candied kumquats whole in my mouth without worry.

This recipe will yield a fresher kumquat and a lighter syrup than some candied kumquat recipes. If you want a heavier syrup and a more candied kumquat, feel free to reduce it farther, but you may not have enough syrup then to properly cover the kumquats for safe shelf-stable preserving. In that case, simply refrigerate. I like to preserving mine lighter like this, and I can reduce the syrup down later with more sugar if necessary.

Boiling them softens the skin
Kanroni refers to anything that has been simmered in a syrup or sweet glaze. Most famous is probably kuri no kanroni, or glazed chestnuts. When I first made candied kumquats, I didn't even think of it as an Asian recipe despite the origin and history of citrus in Asia, that's how ingrained citrus is to life here in Southern California.

Kinkan No Kanroni (金柑の甘露煮)

2.5lbs of kumquats
This took forever!
6 cups of granulated sugar (I prefer superfine like baker's sugar)
8 cups of water

First, pour boiling water over kumquats to cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Repeat to soften the skin, then rinse in cold water. Now slice about 4-5 lengthwise slits through the skin to remove the seeds using a chopstick, or simply prick the skin of each kumquat and leave the seeds in. Removing the seeds will take a while, feel free to do this while watching a movie.

Combine the kumquats and water and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the sugar and cook over medium-low heat until the kumquats are translucent, about 15 minutes. Do not attempt to speed up the process by boiling the syrup, that may cause it to crystallize. Turn off the heat and cover, leaving the kumquats in syrup overnight or 8 hours (I've skipped this step before without too much difference, but usually I like a break to clean up the kitchen and step away from the kumquats). The next day, bring the syrup and kumquats to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Turn off heat, and pack kumquats into jars, then top with syrup to cover. You can refrigerate as soon as they cool down, and they will last in the fridge for months. Alternatively, after packing the kumquats and syrup in the jar, making sure that you have a 1/2" headspace, and process in a hot water canner for 15 minutes.

Any leftover syrup can be used to flavor soda water, added to cocktails, or poured over waffles and pancakes for another way to enjoy these delicious orange gems!

See Also:
Pickled Beet Eggs
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling
Hatch Chile Apricot Jelly


  1. Yum... these will go great with my gingersnap encrusted HAM!!!

  2. These will be really good to flavor water! Sounds good!

  3. My grandpa's garden has kinkan and we used to make this. Gosh, it's like over 25 years or even more ago... I still remember the taste, even though I haven't had it since that time. Such a nostalgic recipe. I would love to make it. :)

  4. I knew kinkan bearing oblong fruits. I found a "special" kinkan plant from Japan that bears fruits twice a year. And I was told that even the meat inside is sweet enough to eat. The plant had some oblong fruits already and my family enjoyed them. After that the plant did not bear any fruit for 10 years. Last year the tree flowered but had round fruits and they were soooooo bitter and tasted nothing like kinkan that I knew. Last summer I sent to Saitama and asked about kinkan. They knew of the round ones and not the oblong ones...I was about to chop the tree down, but I have many kinkan turning orange already, I will try Ms. Mochi's way to make some preserves and will try canning them. I am excited to try it. Thank you, Ms. Mochi.