Salted kumquats

My local Hmart labels kumquats “ugly oranges.” I would’ve gone with tiny oranges, or maybe sour af oranges for those in the know, but we’re not all masters in precisely translating abstract and concrete (notions of) things.*

I look for kumquats every time I go to the market because they’re excellent for moving qi in the chest and stomach, clearing stagnation that causes coughing, likely with some phlegm, and improving a poor appetite. Obviously these qualities make kumquats really good to have on hand with a respiratory pandemic going around – not as some miracle cure, but as a small balm for the 85% of those who catch it, but will be fortunate enough to weather their illness at home (the lucky ones). The sick who aren’t nearly sick enough to need medical care (food remedies obviously being now substitute for timely and necessarily medical intervention) still need small reliefs to keep them from attempting to access an already burdened emergency medical system. #cattenthecurve

The trouble is, kumquats are in season less than half the year, and most markets do not carry such fruits that cater to such deviant tastes. So when I saw them fully stocked amidst an otherwise patchily picked through market, I decided it was a damn good time to preserve them. Here’s how to do it if you’re similarly inclined:

Materials

  1. many kumquats (I used about 1.5 lbs in these photos)
  2. a right-sized jar for your kumquats (or any jar you don’t have to leave home for!)
  3. water for washing your kumquats
  4. a lot of salt, ideally sea salt or any other non-iodized salt
Some of my favorite recipes are two ingredient recipes. Simple. Classic. Low-mess.

Process

  1. wash kumquats to remove any surface dirt
  2. during or after step 1, remove their pips (kumquat umbilici?)
  3. drain water
  4. alternate layering salt and kumquats into your jar. try to really pack the kumquats in, and ensure salt is packed around them
  5. cover the top with more salt
  6. lid your jars, refrigerate for a while: 2 weeks – 1 month min, a year or maybe two max before use

Recipe credit: this recipe/method is a family recipe from Jaden, author of the super helpful cooking blog Steamy Kitchen. I’ve presented it here to elaborate on why her recipe works so well for sore throats – the only indication she could remember, and neither she nor her mother could state why.

Medicinal properties

According to Henry Lu’s Chinese Food Cures (p.436), kumquats are good for:

  • chest congestion, cough, whooping cough, thirst
  • indigestion, stomachache, poor appetite
  • hernial pain

They are warm, acrid, sweet and sour. Their warmth and acridity allows them to transform mucus -especially cold mucus; their sourness astringes the liver, moving through qi stagnation (particularly that in the torso).

I cannot find a textual reference discussing the usage of kumquats – particularly salted kumquats – for sore throats. However, the throat and respiratory passages (including the nose/sinuses) are the doorway to the lung; further, salty taste increases fluids (dryness being a possible sore throat trigger) and enters the kidney; the kidney channel connects with the throat (and at least one acupuncture point on it is good for some types of throat pain) so I can easily see how/why this method of preserving kumquat makes it especially good for the throat.

Family photo time with some other kitchen herbs!
Tbh I went back and added more salt after taking this photo, to remove the many gaps/air pockets you can see between these beautiful little ‘quats.

*I literally am a master in doing this (‘skobuffs!), but that’s a weird thing to flex about in a broader cultural climate of antipathy towards specialists, professionals, and other know-it-alls.