Find out how to turn kumquats and honey into a delicious probiotic concoction that’s both a drink and a food, aka honey-fermented kumquats!
Despite our best efforts to diminish the quantity of fruit on our kumquat tree, it was still loaded. The problem? This is the time of year the tree needs to start focusing its energy towards new growth and flower production for next winter’s fruit, which it can’t do as long as fruit remains on the tree.
The other problem? Our toddler LOVES kumquats, which also happen to be the perfect size and shape to be extreme choking hazards without assistance from an adult.
Any time we’re outside, he runs as fast as his baby legs will carry him to our potted citrus to try to score some fruit before we nab him.
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His citrus addiction is so extreme, he’ll scream and cry ceaselessly if we don’t let him free-forage the citrus. This is making “outdoor time” a bit unpleasant for the parents (and probably our neighbors).
What can you make with lots of kumquats?
Thus, we made a decision: pick all the kumquats off our tree and come up with ways to use them in our kitchen. But what can you make with lots of kumquats?
In case you’ve never eaten them, kumquats aren’t like more common citrus such as oranges and lemons. For one, they’re small, about the size of a large olive. Also, you eat kumquats whole, skin and all. (The flesh is juicy and sour while the skin is sweet, a perfect flavor combination when chewed.)
So with several large bowls and bags of kumquats in hand, we set out to put them to good use. We also have a 5-gallon bucket of honey from our hive at our disposal plus a passion for fermented foods & beverages. Hmm…
This got us thinking: what if we fermented our kumquats in honey? There’s only one way to answer a question like this: experimentation.
First trial run of honey-fermented kumquats
So as not to waste too many treasured ingredients on a failed experiment, we started with quart jar-sized experiments. Round 1 tests included:
- Kumquats cut in half submerged in honey with spruce tree sprigs intermixed (yes, spruce trees are edible);
- Sliced Meyer lemons (we also have a bunch of these to use up) in honey with spruce tree sprigs.
We stirred and tasted the concoctions daily, closely monitoring their development:
After Day 3, enough juice had mixed with the honey to turn it into more of a watery-syrup consistency.
At Day 7, the liquid had taken on the color of the fruit (orange and yellow).
By Day 10, we saw significant bubbling/microbial activity in both mixes. The Meyer lemon mix was more active and active faster than the kumquat mix, likely due to the higher water content of lemons allowing for faster microbial proliferation.
At Day 18 we arrested/stopped the Meyer lemon fermentation by putting it in the fridge. There’s a fine line on these types of ferments where they go from tasting great to starting to take on funky notes, and we didn’t want to cross it. Hence, why we always recommend doing a small taste test daily or even during each stir.
Late on Day 19 we stopped the kumquat fermentation by putting it in the fridge.
What did our honey-fermented citrus experiments taste like?
The honey-Meyer lemon-spruce tree fermentation tasted intense and medicinal. The Tyrant described it as “lemon cough syrup.” Given the ingredients, it likely would be an excellent candidate for such use. It also had strong bitter notes due to the pith being left on the fruit. If we make it again, we’d just skin and juice the fruit, and compost the pith.
We were also a little disappointed that the spruce tree didn’t really show up on the flavor side, likely due to too short a timespan – next time we use them, we’ll chop the needles first.
The honey-kumquat-spruce tree fermentation was absolutely delicious. No unpleasant bitterness, since kumquat skins don’t have a bitter pith. The Tyrant described the liquid portion of the concoction as “liquid marmalade, but way better.” Here again, the spruce tree flavors didn’t really show up for the same reasons mentioned above.
The quartered pieces of fermented kumquats were infused with honey flavor. The skin was soft, but not as soft as citrus skin that’s been boiled to make candy. (See our Buddha’s hand citron candy recipe.)
How to use honey-fermented kumquats
After fermentation, honey-fermented kumquats can be used as both a probiotic/fermented drink or a food.
The resulting kumquats are perfect on their own or as a dessert garnish. Likewise, the liquid portion of this ferment is a wonderful stand-alone apéritif or digestif or as a base for other drinks.
We were curious to see how the kumquats would dehydrate for use as candy, so we did a small test to see. The result: wonderful flavor but a texture too leathery for most people to find enjoyable.
Making an adult beverage with honey-fermented kumquats
The Tyrant has also combined both the liquid and fruit portion of our honey-fermented kumquats to make delicious adult beverages.
Here’s her recommendations for making a fortified drink using honey-fermented kumquats:
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice;
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) honey-fermented kumquat liquid;
- 2 ounce shot vodka;
- pour into shaker over ice, shake, and *serve;
- (*put 3-4 pieces of fermented kumquat in bottom of glass before serving).
Recipe: How to make honey-fermented kumquats
We liked our experimental small batch of honey-fermented kumquats so much that we’re now making a large 8 cup/64 ounce jar with some of the other kumquats we picked. (We left out the spruce tree needles this time.)
We also quartered the kumquats so that more liquid/juice would mix with the honey faster, hastening the initiation of the fermentation process. We noticed strong bubble formation within a week this time, three days faster than our first experimental batch.
So, if you’re wondering what you can do with lots of kumquats, we have an answer for you: make this honey-fermented kumquat recipe!
A delicious sweet and citrusy probiotic concoction made from two ingredients: honey and kumquats. Use as a drink, food, or both.
- 6 cups kumquats, quartered or halved (remove any easy-to-find large seeds, otherwise leave them) See notes in article about pros and cons of quartering or halving kumquats.
- 3.5 cups honey
Cut kumquats and remove any easy seeds that are easy to grab, otherwise leave them. Quartering the fruit allows the juice to quickly begin infusing and mixing with the honey, which speeds up fermentation. Halving the fruit slows the fermentation by a few days, but you may prefer larger finished fruit pieces.
Add kumquats to jar about 1.5-2 cups at a time, then cover with honey. Repeat until you reach the top of the jar. If you put all the kumquats in the jar BEFORE adding honey, it will take a long time for the honey to settle into the jar.
Cover jar. Option 1. (recommended) Fasten a breathable fabric like linen or a paper towel to the top of the jar with a string of rubber band. Option 2. Put a standard jar lid on but don't screw it down, so that the mixture can "burp" when it needs to.
Stir twice daily, once in the morning and once at night. Taste a small amount each time to monitor the flavor development. After about 7-10 days (depending on fruit cut size), you'll notice the mixture starting to get bubbly.
Arrest/stop fermentation by placing it in the fridge whenever you love the flavor and effervescence, but before it starts to take on odd flavor notes. For us, this was ~20 days. Store in the fridge for up to 2-3 months (possibly longer).
Let us know how your honey-fermented kumquats turn out! We’ll be munching and sipping away while we’re waiting to hear from you…
Bite into more zesty citrus articles from Tyrant Farms:
- Recipe: One-pot roasted turkey with kumquats and wild rice
- Our potted citrus garden tour (video)
- Step-by-step: how to grow your own organic citrus at home in any climate zone
- Recipe: Buddha’s hand citron: make tea, candy, and simple syrup from a single recipe
- Recipe: Duck egg Meyer lemon curd
- Recipe: Native passion fruit & Meyer lemon sparkling cordial
- Recipe: Sugar-free persimmon, kumquat, cranberry relish
- Recipe: 10-minute broccoli mash with citrus miso sauce
- Recipe: Meyer lemon bars with rosemary brown butter shortbread crust
- Recipe: Guava & Meyer lemon ice cream
- Recipe: Calamondin marmalade with baby ginger
- Easiest way to zest a lemon or orange
- How to grow and make lemon blossom tea