AUTUMN FRUIT Cumquats (Kumquats) and Quinces

I do like Cumquats and Quinces – both are Autumn fruit.

The photos were taken at my friends’ house in the south – east of South Australia. Each time that we are together we get productive in her kitchen.

My friend  likes to make preserves – cumquat and whisky marmalade, pickled cumquats and cumquats preserved in brandy. She also makes quince jelly and quince paste. On this particular weekend we used some of her abundant  autumn harvest.

She has the round shaped cumquats. The elongated variety of cumquats are much sweeter and are very good eaten fresh and whole . I like to eat both varieties raw and whole.

Here are photos of some of the methods used to make the cumquats in brandy or Cointreau or a mixture of both. Rum or Whisky is also good.

You could add some extra flavourings if you wish: cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, star anise or glace or crystallized ginger.

The jars and lids will need to be sterilised. You may have your own way to this, for example:

  • Use the hot cycle in your dishwasher
  • cover them with hot water and boil them, for about 10 minutes
  • fill them with boiling water, place them on a baking tray lined with a tea towel and put them into a 110 C oven for about 15 minutes.

Although my friend had several kilos of cumquats, the recipe is based on using 1 kilo of cumquats.

You can use as much alcohol of your choice as you wish, for example a ratio of 3 cups of alcohol to 2 cups of water – adjust according to taste.  You will not necessarily know how much liquid you will need to cover the cumquats in the jars but you can always make more if you run out of the alcohol and water mixture.

Sugar – use 800g per kilo of fruit.

Use only whole fruit that are bright orange in color and have firm, undamaged skins. Make sure that they have stems.

Wash and dry them and remove the leaves. Leave the little green stems, then prick each one a couple of times with a thick needle.

Cover with water and bring them slowly to the boil. Simmer them uncovered for about 10 minutes – the must not collapse.

Drain them carefully and gently – they must remain whole. Reserve the water to use in the alcohol mixture.  Combine water with sugar, bring to the boil and boil for about 5 minutes. Take off the stove, add alcohol and mix well.

Place the fruit gently into the prepared jar. Add some spices or ginger among the cumquats if you wish. Top with the syrup. Do not crowd them too much as they may break. Cover with lids. Allow to stand for at least two weeks before using.

4 quinces,  cinnamon quills,  3  lemons, sliced,
About 200g sugar,
2 cups of water

I wiped the fuzz off the quinces and preheated my oven to 140C (fan-forced). I cut the quinces into quarters and sliced lemons and placed them in between the pieces of quinces.

Added sugar and water.

Covered them with foil and baked for at least 3 hours until quinces are soft and a rich red  – I removed the foil about 15 minutes before they finished cooking.

Jelly ( from the juices) in the left over quinces.

A Tale about QUINCES
MOSTARDA and COTOGNATA- Sweets in Moulds
PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda

PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda

I first wrote about prickly pears in a post dated Apr 15, 2009. The photo above was taken in the market of Siracusa (Syracuse).

This is an update of the post and I have added a recipe for a paste made with prickly pears (Mostarda di fichi D’india): March 5, 20015  .

Whenever I purchase fichi d’india (literally figs of India), I find myself telling others about the delights of eating prickly pears, but most importantly how to handle and peel them; I should set myself up at the Queen Victoria Market and give advice to the customers.

The fruit can be yellow, purple or red and ripens in late summer and in autumn. Use tongs when selecting your own fruit (store /stall holders should have those available) or wrap your hand in plastic or a paper bag because the fruit is covered with small, almost hair like spines that penetrate the skin, and stay there.

Sicilians love them and those of you who have travelled to Sicily would have seen them growing all over the countryside, eaten them after the meal in restaurants (as the cleansing fruit) and seen them for sale from the back of trucks on roadsides and in markets. They also grow in Calabria and in Puglia (all in the South of Italy).

Mareblu photos-10

Once peeled, eat the fruit raw. They are full of seeds (edible) and many non Sicilians may not like them but they really are worth trying. My aged Sicilian aunty who lives in Ragusa always warns me not to eat too many – apparently the seeds can group together and form a lump in the bowel causing constipation.


The photograph should be self explanatory, but just in case here is what to do:

Place the prickly pears in a bowl of water to clean – this also helps to remove some of the spines. My father used to soak them in water overnight but I do not think that this is necessary.

Remove the fruit with tongs.

Place on a plate. Use a fork to hold the fruit while peeling.

Use a sharp knife and cut off each end of the fruit.

Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.

Peel back the thick fleshy skin with the use of the fork and knife that’s wrapped around the prickly pear. Discard the skin.


Mostarda di Fichi D’india

Like quinces prickly pears can be made into a  paste (called mostarda) See: Mostarda and Cotognata– Sweets shaped in molds / moulds (spelling depending where you come from(. The Sicilian molds  are ceramic shapes, called Formelle.


Peel the prickly pears and crush them with a fork. Place them into a saucepan.

Heat them over moderate heat until they boil – the prickly pears will be more liquid. Strain the mixture through a colander (with small holes) to remove the seeds.

Cool the mixture.

Add some vanilla, sugar, some Marsala, grated orange peel, ground cloves and ground cinnamon (all to your taste). Some also add  a few almonds to the mixture.

Add 100 g of cornflour per litre of juice – do this slowly, a little bit of flour at a time and make sure that there are no lumps. You may need a whisk or a blender.

Cook on low heat, stirring often until the mixture thickens into a thick paste to the consistency of a thick custard or polenta. Pour into moulds. Leave overnight.

Take them out of their moulds, place them on a wire rack and dry in the sun for 2-3 days. Turn them over often and bring indoors overnight.

Store them in a dry cardboard box with a few bay leaves (fresh or dry). The surface of the mostarda will become covered with a light and fine white coating of sugar – this means that they are now dry and can be stored in a  well sealed ceramic or tin container.

The photo below was taken in Siracusa in a shop called Il Mago Delle Spezie. Because of their dark colour these are likely to be mostrada made with grape must (vino cotto).



Weekend Herb Blogging.

On this site bloggers can post information about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower – I submitted my information about prickly pears to the host for the week: The Cabinet of Prof Kitty.

MOSTARDA and COTOGNATA – Sweets in Moulds

When I was a child growing up in Trieste at a particular time of the year my father and I would go to the railway station and collect a parcel, sent by relatives in Ragusa, Sicily. In it were irregular, round and oval shapes of cotognata and mostarda – not something that could be found in Trieste.

Many are familiar with cotognata, quince paste that in Australia seems to have become very common on cheese platters. I have never eaten it with cheese in Sicily. Cotognata it is a sweet that has a relatively long shelf life and is traditionally kept for those times when unexpected visitors arrive. One cannot make a brutta figura and have nothing available at home to offer to guests.

A few of you may be familiar with mostarda but perhaps what you are thinking of is mostarda of Cremona, mustard fruits in mustard oil and sugar and traditionally served with bollito misto di carne (a variety of boiled meats). Cremona is not in Sicily. Or you may have known mostarda as an ingredient for pumpkin tortelli (large tortellini – pasta pillows, similar to ravioli). This mostarda is generally made with quince.

The Sicilian mostarda is similar and eaten in the same way as cotognata but it is made with grape must, wood ash, citrus zest and cornstarch. Some add almonds or pine nuts and raisins (as in the recipe by the goddess of all Sicilian recipes, Mary Taylor Simeti).

Others add cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves.



The ingredients are cooked until the must becomes thick, almost solid. The mostarda is then poured into these type of moulds and dried in the sun. Like cotognata it is generally spread with granulated sugar when inverted and exposed again to the sun until they are completely dry.

Now to the moulds (also molds, depending where you come from). These belonged to my great grandmother and my brother has them hanging on his wall in the kitchen. I have a few, fond memories every time I see them. The moulds are called formelle.