The Cons: Vanilla Bean & Ghost Pepper Kumquat Marmalade

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The kitchen is close to done. Not quite, but almost. That's another story, which at the moment I am unable to tell because if I do I'll suffer a conniption fueled from pure rage. So apologies if I need a week or two in order keep my blood inside my head on not spritzed upon my newly painted teal walls.

"And aren't they a beautiful shade of teal?!" is what I howl to the poor Mormon missionaries and UPS delivery men who by bad luck or unfortunate karma are forced to come to my door. Some are smart enough to run before I begin to detail how I installed the Cotton Valley Oak flooring. 

Instead, I'll bitch about something else today. First world problems. Who else has got 'em, right? How terrible it is that I am spending the Pride weekend in my brand new house putting together brand new Ikea furniture? How I suffer eating in my new dining room. What is that, husband? You picked up the wrong wine for the roast chicken with apricots? We can't drink Chardonnay! WHAT ARE WE, SAVAGES?!

So it hasn't been that bad, but let's talk fruit trees again. I know I was overjoyed at the prospect of now having them and how I was going to plant more, but I have quickly familiarized myself with the "con" side of the list.

Allow me to elaborate a few of these items:

1. There is so much of it. I like bacon. Love it. Though I've had a day or two in my life where all I ate that day was bacon. Lots of it. I would write a clever simile to convey how fucking awesome it was, but normally I would compare something awesome to "eating bacon every single meal of the day." Thus, saying, "Eating bacon every single meal of the day was so good it was like eating bacon every single meal of the day," is just deliciously dull and repetitive. Though, regardless, very true. 

Until later.

Afterwards, my body began to feel heavy, each breath sounded like the sputtering failings of a 1971 Ford Pinto, and the hallucinations began to get rather violent. (Last winter I ate almost an entire ham on my own and spent the day in a corner hiding from a figment troupe of murderous, giant praying mantises.) I have learned that having your favorite food for every meal is not a good thing.

However, fruit trees force this scenario to occur. Take the kumquat tree for example: this week we have had kumquat tea, kumquat iced tea, pickled kumquats, candied kumquats, roast chicken stuffed with kumquats, dried kumquats mixed into spiced blends and kumquat salt, kumquat mojitos, kumquat marmalade, and sliced kumquats on salads.

There is still barely a dent in the kumquat crop. The tree is persistent and unyielding. I anticipate it will not rest until it has seen me burst and citric after overconsumption of its bounty.

-Death by kumquats son.-

2. It must be collected every day. Fruit trees must be picked nearly every single day in order to properly use it all. 

Fruit that drops bruises and it bruises quickly. If you collect it that day then you can store it in the fridge or preserve it in some way. Give it a day, though, and the fruit begins to decompose.

Bruised and rotted fruit attracts the following:
  • ants
  • rats
  • opossums 
  • skunks
  • crows
  • magpies
  • Jack the Corgi (who then throws them up)
  • mice
  • ????
All are problematic for obvious reasons. 

In addition, the smell of the rotting fruit can have all the alluring aroma of urban St. Louis on a humid summer day. Considering it's also been 108F in Sacramento this week this has been amplified one hundred thousand fold.

3. People steal it.  What the hell is wrong with people?

There are some basic rules of when to take fruit off someone else's tree. Rule One: If it is hanging over their fence and into your yard you can take it. Rule Two: If is hanging over the street and in arm's reach then it is fair game. Rule Three: If you have to take even one step onto someone's yard or property then you cannot have it. 

This last one seems to be an issue for people. If you have a fruit tree in your front yard, even if it's espaliered on your bedroom window some people feel that there is no problem walking onto your property and taking fruit. 

Some people just don't know better and have the intelligence of a dented hubcap from drinking too much antifreeze as a child to even realize, "Hey, maybe this isn't okay to walk onto someone else's land and take something that isn't mine." Then they realize it's just fruit and take it anyway. Lulz.

Other people actively just steal it. They drive up in the middle of the night, set up a ladder, and just strip the tree bare because and drive away. Even if you put up signs or write on the fruit itself some people just knowingly take for selfish reasons. You think the universe might do you a good turn and cause them to careen into a fence post, but there's rarely justice like that.

Odd thing? I am happy to share. Just knock on the door and ask and I'll give you a bag and help you collect. Sneaking up and just taking what you feel is yours just makes you a dick. Furthermore, as the corgi is useless at scaring off would-be fruit thieves I plan to set up a small fleet of drones that fire paintballs filled with cat urine to ward of anyone performing an unsanctioned harvest. 

Anyways, as I go forward with battle I am making a lot of kumquat marmalade. This most recent batch I laced with vanilla beans and a bit of ghost pepper. If you aren't aware, ghost peppers are the hottest pepper on earth. Well over 1,000,000 Scoville units, and sometimes over 2,000,000. That's the equivalent of about 20 habaneros. The ghost pepper is also the pepper used in military-grade pepper spray and in many chemical weapons. You must handle it with gloves, wash thoroughly after, and should you get it in your eyes or nose you will likely need a hospital visit or to call poison control.

You can buy it online and eat it, too!

In a triple batch of this marmalade I used a heaping 1/4 teaspoon. The marmalade recipe made 9 cups worth. The entire batch leaves a rather intense tingle behind. Remember with ghost peppers that just a pinch will do ya'.

Anyways, if you're overloaded with kumquats then this is the recipe for you. Enjoy.

Kumquat Marmalade
Kumquat seeds are perfectly edible and, frankly, painstakingly removing each one is about as fun as sticking your hand into a ceiling fan. A trick: use the shredder plate in a food processor. Most seeds won't pass through the slots and it makes the task much quicker. What seeds remain are few and cook up plenty soft. I call the look rustic and the flavor isn't altered at all. The measurements for this recipe come from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.

3 lbs. kumquats
6 cups water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeded
1/4 teaspoon ghost pepper powder
2.25 lbs. sugar

1. Cut up and de-seed the kumquats. Place them in a large stock pot with the water and allow to sit in the fridge overnight to steep.

2. Add the vanilla, sugar, and ghost pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium-high and boil for the next hour. Be sure to stir often to prevent burning.

3. Pour into sterilized jars, lid and screw, and process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes to seal. This is amazing with cheese or mixed with a bit of yogurt. 


  1. Yeah, the cat urine should do it...

  2. OMGoodness, I used a ghost pepper in just a quart of salsa once and it made it almost inedible and I'm a hot head and friends with fellow hot heads! LOL.

    The kumquats! Yummy! (maybe you can sell them online to people on the East me!)

  3. Last year, we were inundated with peaches. I distributed to the neighbors, froze a bunch and still had bushels left over. Finally, a neighbor told me the retirement home loves to get extra produce and that our local food closet accepts it as well.

    I'll trade extra produce for good karma any day.

    Alternatively, you can freeze them, load them in a paintball gun and shoot them at the fruit thieves.

  4. Lights and sirens on motion detectors??

    I am about at my limits with our blackberry bushes. 2+ gallons frozen and they are still going strong. But we don't have anyone stealing them - except the birds and rabbits.

    1. I would love to have a blackberry problem, but I am afraid if a bush taking over the yard.

    2. It can be controlled. The blackberries only grow off of new growth so each fall they are trimmed back by half. Spring comes, new growth and more berries. Blueberries grow on old growth so you can't trim them too much and they can get really BIG.

  5. Possible solution: trade your fruit overabundance for something you want. Place an ad on Craigslist in the free/trade section. See what offers come your way.

    1. Never thought of craigslist either. Thanks!

  6. My boyfriend's kid has this crazy fascination with ghost peppers, he's also one of those people that can eat really, really hot things and barely blinks an eye. I think I might have to make this marmalade for him. Thanks for the recipe. :)

    1. You should dare him to eat one whole and then allow the hilarity to ensue.

  7. The whole "fruit everywhere" issue is actually pretty difficult, isn't it? We have plums all over our backyard right now, even after I've harvested several big bowls and made pie. And in October the pineapple guavas will be ripe, and I'll be in big trouble. Fruit thievery isn't an issue for us, since the fruit isn't visible from the street. but I have to say I'm occasionally tempted by the totally full trees that some of our neighbors seem never, ever to harvest. I think I need to go knock on some doors soon...

    1. We have a pineapple guava tree coming in from the neighbor's yard. I don't much care for them so I plan to cut that thing back back back.

  8. You know, if it wasn't a tree that you actually wanted fruit from...I'd suggest hanging poison ivy branches in the tree. Wouldn't hurt any of the animals (everyone in the animal kingdom is immune EXCEPT humans??) and it would leave a nasty present for anyone who took without asking...

  9. I think it is funny. On the one hand, there is too much and what are you going to do with it and it has to be picked (and picking is really only the beginning of what has to be done with the stuff)And on the other hand, it drives you nuts that people steal them!! I totally get that, but it is funny.
    People would stop along the road and clip our daffodils in bloom. Chapped me to no end. I think you should have a catapult of rotten dropped fruit to assault the thieves with. If they want kumquats, you can give them kumquats!

  10. I second looking into a donation drop-off. I belong to a community garden that stipulates we drop off 10% of our crop at the local (low-income) senior center. I'm sure they appreciate it!

  11. Not sure where you are in Sacramento, but the food bank and Soil Born have a fruit tree collection program called Harvest Sacramento where someone will come and pick any extra fruit for the food bank.

  12. Oh my where to begin? This is my first visit to your site, having come from Sis.Boom. Blog!) What a terrific site. My compliments abound.

    I do hope your kitchen will be completed soon. We are just about to start ours, so I look forward to your "finished" shots. I have been told to anticipate much heartache and many hassles with our upcoming remodel. I have even been advised to seek marriage counseling prior to the demo, just to build a relationship with a good therapist. It is all quite daunting and exciting at the same time.

    About the fruit thieves, I am with you all the way. The ones who cruise into my yard, either under cover of darkness or when we are not here, just aggravate the daylights out of me. At first, ever the optimist, I thought it was squirrels - but then I realized that if that were the case, these were the neatest squirrels ever, leaving not one half eaten apricot anywhere. Later I realized we had fallen prey to the neighborhood fruit thief ring. Good God, is nothing sacred?

    Your Marmalade looks fabulous. I am guessing you will have lots!

  13. If you are still having a hard time using all of your bountiful harvest, I would LOVE to have some! I like them by themselves, they're yummy!

  14. Late to the party - and already mentioned here - but where I live south of you in Sheldon (rural part of Elk Grove) - excess produce of all kinds - fruits and veggies is picked up weekly and taken to the food bank on distribution day. Nice change for the grocery bags and I know it's not going to waste.

    I love hot and love peppers but habaneros are enough for me - ghost peppers scare me....

  15. I....don't think I've ever had a kumquat....bring in some of the extras to work?


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