Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Fruits of Florida

One reason I decided I like Florida is kumquat pie.  We have visited friends who live near St. Joseph, Kumquat Capitol of the World.  Nearby Dade City hosts the Kumquat Festival the last Saturday in January.  This coming year, it will be January 28th.

 Kumquat Festival

We have never yet made it to the Festival, but we did once stop in at a store at the Kumquat Capital and indulge in a piece of Kumquat Pie.  What the heck is a kumquat, you might well ask.  It is a lovely little olive sized orange.  The skin is the sweet part, and it does have a bit of sour orange flesh and several seeds. 

Since DH (Darling Husband) was planning on joining me the following week, I was anxious to acquire some kumquats and make a pie to celebrate his arrival.  I set out the next day to explore the fresh produce market and the local Winn Dixie.  I had never shopped at Winn Dixie before.   There were indeed kumquats at the produce market, and they were nice and plump and bright orange.  I got a pint of them, and some Plant City strawberries. Those are the biggest, juiciest, most fragrant strawberries ever. 

Plant City is about 100 miles WSW of Titusville, south of the Green Swamp and next to Lakeland, winter home of the Detroit Tigers.  It's the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, and hosts the Strawberry Festival, usually in March.  In 2012, it will be March 1-11.  Being that I arrived after the Kumquat Festival and was going home before the Strawberry Festival, it would seem I was going to miss all the fun.  Well, I could at least enjoy the fruits.

To be sure, the little Spanish house I rented came with a beautiful yard sporting several citrus trees, navel and Temple oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and bitter orange.  I was invited by the host landlord to help myself to as much of the fruit as I could eat.  There were also two or three loquat trees.  I had never heard of a loquat.  It's a little oval yellow fruit the size of a cherry.  Its stem end looks more like a peach stem than a cherry stem, and the flavor of the fruit is somewhere between peach, cherry and apricot.  There is a big pit inside the loquat that some people say is edible and some say it is not.  I didn't try the pit, but I did eat loquats, and eventually made a pie out of them, using a Cherry Pie Recipe.

I found a recipe for Kumquat Pie, and went on a shopping expedition to acquire the ingredients and an important bit of equipment.  I thought a stick blender would be helpful for chopping up the kumquats for the filling.  Other than processing the kumquats, this is a very easy recipe.

Kumquat Pie
1 baked pie crust, I used a graham cracker crust
1 can condensed milk, like Eagle Brand
1 8 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup lemon juice (I used the bitter orange juice, it was really sour!)
2/3 cup pureed Kumquats (my pint made enough for three pies)

You have to get the seeds out of the kumquats, which is a pain.  Cut them in half and dig away. Then puree the kumquats, skins and all.  Measure out what you need and put the rest into plastic bags. You can freeze them. Thaw and drain before using. I would use the liquid in the 1/2 cup of lemon juice, maybe.

Now whip up the condensed milk in a bowl. It will thicken somewhat. Beat in the whipped topping, then the lemon juice. Beat til thickened. I used the stick blender for this job.  Add the pureed kumquats and blend in.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

This pie is a hit with everyone who tries it.  I gave a pie kit to my host, pureed kumquats, pie shell, condensed milk and Cool Whip.

Now, I didn't just eat and make pies the first few days.  Ginger and I did a lot of walking along the Indian River and up and down the streets of the Indian River City section of Titusville.   The weather was balmy and beautiful.  I was starting to think I could get used to this. 

Next, meeting some of the local flora and fauna, and an expedition on the St. John's River.

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