Sometimes, a falling leaf is like a butterfly. On its way to its respectable death it dances and twirls, peaking into and out of the setting sun. I saw this very thing on a winter walk.
The image was so haunting, I still dream about those deadly butterflies. In my dream, I was walking into a forest full of those fluttering wings – beautiful moths and butterflies moving unnaturally slow. The trees were made of them and I could see them clustering and fluttering like butterflies do. When I came upon the butterfly laden trees, I could see them attempting to escape. They struggled but could not move. A giant spider crawled up to them and began weaving its fatal trap. All the butterflies were slowly succumbing to their doom. I woke up.
Last autumn, I went with my boyfriend to watch him film monarchs. They are quite splendid creatures and they cluster like heavy fruit on trees, if fruit could quiver. In the coolness of the last moment of sunlight you can see them moving their wings in order to warm up. A foreign tourist was going about collecting the dead butterflies and hiding them in his plastic tupperware.
My dreams seems so unfamiliar to me now but I can trace a lot of their imagery from my recent past. I wake up in sweat and confusion. I wished they felt less consequential.
For the past three years, I’ve made floral arrangements for my boyfriend’s mother on New Years Day. It’s a treat for me, and I enjoy it immensely. I love flowers and plants and I surround myself with them so infrequently. This year I made a series of small arrangements out of fresh kumquat stems and purple artichokes. I collected the kumquats after the arrangements were in need of refreshing for another event. I couldn’t bear throwing them out so I candied them and sealed them in my new Weck jars.
Preserving & Candying Kumquats
Adapted from Tart and Sweet
3 lb of kumquats (halved*, deseeded)
1 vanilla bean
2 c sugar
2 c water
+ Sanitize your glass vessels of choice by boiling them in hot water for 10 minutes. You should be able to make 5 half-pints with 3 pounds of fruit. Place 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick into each jar.
+ Boiling kumquats helps to remove the bitterness of the inner flesh. In a small pot, placed your 3 pounds of halved kumquats and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil and then drain the fruit of the bitter water. You need to repeat this two more times to properly remove the bitterness and soften the fruit. Divide your fruit into the five jars.
+ Meanwhile, prepare your simple syrup. Scrape the beans from the vanilla pod and boil it with the water and sugar for two minutes to dissolve the sugar.
+ Pour the syrup into your jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Seal and process* for at least 10 minutes.
+ Serve on ice cream, creamed oats, or just eat from the jar with a large spoon.
+ I was tempted to make beautiful coins of candied kumquats but they all fall apart after boiling for three times. All of the delicate rounds fell apart. I recommend keeping your kumquats halved.