If Christmas is the time for fir trees, the Lunar New Year is when kumquat plants appear in the neighborhood.
Literally meaning “golden tangerine”, the golden-orange fruits are believed to mark an auspicious start to the year.
The kumquat is not only good-looking but also has high nutritional value.
Like many other varieties in the citrus family, the fruit is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Kumquat glycosides assist in the maintenance of cardiovascular functions.
To derive the best effects from the kumquat, the entire fruit, including its peel, should be eaten.
However, while its skin is sweet, its pulp is as sour as a lemon, so not many people can appreciate its unique taste.
As a result, the kumquat is usually made into candied fruit or marmalade.
The most popular option among Chinese is preserved kumquat.
Homemade preserved kumquat is a traditional Cantonese way for alleviating the symptoms of a sore throat.
A cup of hot preserved kumquat drink can quickly soothe a sore throat.
The salt in it is believed to kill germs, and the sourness of the drink stimulates the secretion of saliva, which can moisturize the dry throat.
It generally takes six months to a year to prepare preserved kumquat.
The longer the time taken, the better the preserved kumquat will be.
A jar of homemade preserved kumquat over a few decades old is often considered a family heirloom.
It is quite easy to make.
All you need is a jar, kumquats and coarse salt.
Take care while following these steps:
1. Have a large glass jar with a wide opening and an airtight lid ready. Clean it and dry it completely.
2. Remove only unblemished, round kumquats from the plant carefully using a pair of scissors. Wash them with cool, boiled water. Kumquats that have cuts in their skin are no good, as mold will easily grow on them.
3. Wipe dry every kumquat and place it in the open air, but not bright sunlight, for further drying.
4. Fill the bottom of the glass jar with a layer of coarse salt, add a layer of kumquats, then add further layers, alternating between salt and fruit. Make sure each layer of kumquats is completely buried by coarse salt.
5. Keep water away during the entire process.
6. Seal the jar and place it in a cool place. The coarse salt will be liquidized. Make sure all the kumquats are well immersed in the salt solution. Remove those that are not, or else they may become moldy and contaminate the whole jar.
7. Mark the starting date on the jar. The kumquats will be ready as soon as half a year later. Don’t forget, the longer the preservation, the darker the color of the kumquats and the more effective the little fruits will be in soothing a sore throat.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 20.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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