I realized shortly before starting this one that I had absolutely no conception of what it would taste like. I’ve never had a kumquat. I’ve never drank Aquavit. I’ve probably have had a Picholine olive before, but wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from any other green olive. And caraway, that’s just the repulsive seed that you find in rye bread, right?
Basically, this recipe produces a hollowed out rind of a kumquat, filled with an aquavit liquor gelatin, garnished with a slice of Picholine olive and caraway seed powder.
This was the first recipe where I attempted to tackle just about all of the components at once, as opposed to working on them one at a time. I started by toasting the caraway seeds, cutting up some kumquats and throwing them into water being heated on the stovetop, and then preparing the aquavit gelatin.
Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit flavored usually with caraway seed and other herbs. A local distillery makes aquavit, so I figured I would use theirs.
The kumquats are brought to a boil in water three times before being tossed into a simmering simple syrup for, as the book tells you, an hour or until tender. I thought that my kumquats were pretty damn tender after only 20 minutes in the simple syrup, so I pulled them out, let them cool to room temperature, and began scooping out the flesh from the rind so only the candied rind bowls were remaining.
(Sidenote: I prepared the simple syrup for this at home. It’s easier and faster to make than actually finding the pre-made stuff at the grocery store. Just bring equal amounts of sugar and water to a boil, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Great for many cocktail recipes.)
I then poured the Aquavit gelatin into the kumquat bowls and placed them in the fridge to set.
Once those had set, I realized that I had perhaps fucked this whole thing up. The Aquavit gelatin turned to a opaque white while setting, which I didn’t think was supposed to happen. I looked up pictures of other blogger’s successful attempts at this recipe to see if they had white, as opposed to clear gelatin. I did find one example where the gelatin had turned white, but I was still wary because ALL of mine had turned white whereas only one of about 8 examples I could find had white gelatin.
Another thing that was freaking me out was perhaps purely mental (or perhaps not). You see, in the middle of working on this recipe, I noticed some fresh bleach stains on my t-shirt. I couldn’t find the source of the bleach stains anywhere. and I’m still confounded on how bleach got on my shirt. One of the first things I wondered about when I saw the white gelatin was whether bleach somehow got into the recipe too and caused the gelatin to turn white. I’m not even sure if that’s the effect bleach would have on a clear gelatin, I’m just saying that it was running through my mind.
All these questions running through my head probably had an effect on my first tasting of one of the kumquat bowls. It didn’t taste great. It wasn’t horrible, just not anything special. And it tasted a little bit…off. Maybe it was purely a mental thing, maybe it wasn’t, but I assumed the worst and concluded that bleach somehow got into the gelatin and all my work so far was for naught. I tossed out everything.
There are two other possible explanations for why this didn’t turn out well, which are both more appealing that the bleach hypothesis:
1) I didn’t let the kumquats simmer in the simple syrup long enough, and as a result, the rind was still more bitter than it should have been.
2) I failed to remove all the pith from the kumquats when I was preparing my kumquat bowls. As a result, the pith made them more bitter than they should have been and also turned the gelatin white.
Luckily, I still had five kumquats left over and a couple days later, I decided to tackle the recipe again, this time being extra careful to make sure that no illicit substances got into my food (not that I wasn’t being careful the first time around!…I have no idea where those bleach stains came from!), and also taking extra steps to ensure that the kumquats were properly candied and that all the pith and flesh was removed from the rind.
Unfortunately, the second time around, the same thing happened. Opaque white aquavit gelatin. I plated one anyway.
Honestly, I didn’t like this recipe at all. The kumquat, olive, and caraway only feel like an inadequate chaser to the potent aquavit gelatin. Oh well, there’s still at least 102 recipes left over to wow me.