Recipe: When Life Gives You Mandarins, Make Mandarin Jam

One of our mandarin trees, early December

One of our mandarin trees, early December

Two things I never imagined experiencing in my life: taking care of mandarin orange trees and making mandarin orange jam. And yet here we are.

We have two huge mandarin orange trees, and we do eat them like crazy throughout the winter, but there are still so many leftover — and it’s such a shame to waste them.

As I mentioned in the apple butter post, for most of my life, I haven’t been into food preserving, although now I realize that part of the reason was probably because I didn’t have an overload of fruits and vegetables to deal with — to actually go out and buy food to preserve added that one extra step that made the whole thing seem silly to me.

But I was so very wrong.

Even if you don’t have your own garden or trees, I highly recommend giving jarring, canning, and food preserving a try. I know it’s cliché, but there really is nothing like homemade — case in point:

I don’t like marmalade.

Seriously. I’ve never met a marmalade I liked until I made this one myself.* The little bits of bitter rind always turned me off. But I *loved* the rinds in this jam, which I’ll discuss further below in the Recipe Notes.

In fact, after just a spoonful, I immediately had visions of playing with various fruits this summer and fall, including exciting combinations, in new jams. We have an apricot tree, but no peach, pear, or plum, so I’m going to have to buy those — or barter with someone in the village. Either way — it’s going to happen. Cannot. Wait.

I also plan on investing in actual canning jars now that I know how fun and easy the preserving process is. Now if anyone would like to come and clean out a section of our cantina for room store everything, you’re more than welcome.

Mandarin Jam – Marmellata di mandarini

[Recipe adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly, Jams & Jellies, page 42 — thanks Carla!]

Spooning out mandarin jam

Spooning out mandarin jam

  • 6 medium mandarin oranges
  • Juice from one large lemon
  • 1.25 liters (5 cups) water
  • 1.5 kg (7 cups) sugar, approximately

1. Peel rind from mandarins and lemons, taking care not to remove any white pith (bitter, so you don’t want it in your jam) with the rind. See Recipe Notes below regarding rinds. Shred rind finely.

2. Discard membranes from mandarins and chop flesh coarsely, discarding seeds. Also remove the seeds from the lemon.

Life Gave You Mandarins? Make Mandarin Jam on Punk Domestics3. Place rind, flesh, and water in a large saucepan, and squeeze in lemon juice.

4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rind is transparent (about 45 minutes).

5. Measure fruit mixture, adding 1 cup of sugar to each cup of mixture.

6. Return sugar and fruit mixture back to saucepan and stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Taste along the way for sugar and desired tartness. I squeezed in a bit more lemon at this stage, and the flavor was wonderful at the end.

7. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally until jam jells when tested (this took about 45 minutes for me). The best way to test whether it’s sufficiently jelled is to drop a spoonful onto a cold saucer that was chilled in freezer or refrigerator. Return the plate to the freezer or refrigerator until jam cools. The jam should be a firm mass on the saucer, not runny, and have formed a skin that wrinkles when pushed with your finger. If you are using a candy thermometer, it’s helpful to know that jams and jellies reach jelling point at 105-106°F/40.5-41°C.

8. Pour jam into hot sterilized jars and seal while hot. For a fuller explanation, see Canning Basics for Preserving Food. And for lots more canning, jarring, and other ideas for at-home preparations of food, be sure to check out the community at Punk Domestics.

*Recipe Notes*

Mandarin jam from our mandarins

Mandarin jam from our mandarins

  • This was my first time making jam, so I had no idea about what the consistency should be; I’d say that was absolutely the hardest part about being a first-time jammer. Even in the photos here, the jam looks a little runny, but it really set well over the next few days in the jars. Rest assured that the advice on testing consistency is spot on, so have faith and trust your instincts.
  • I thought I had put *way* too much water in when I saw just how liquidy the mixture was before it cooked down, so don’t worry about that. The jam got to the right consistency when it was cooked down by about half, so I think that’s a good measure for when you should at least start testing it.
  • My trick for getting the pith off the mandarin rind was my fingernail as there was simply *no* way to peel them without the pith coming off with the rind. So I scraped the mandarin rinds with a fingernail until the pith was off; this, of course, was time-consuming, and since I had previous aversions to rind in jam, I didn’t put *all* the rinds in as the recipe called for. I should have as I *loved* every single time I got a piece of rind when eating it, so next time I’ll definitely suck it up and scrape away. Regarding the lemon, I used a potato peeler to remove the rind with no pith while the lemon was still intact.
  • This recipe, with the above measurements, made three full, small jars of jam.
  • The original recipe called for dried apricots as well, so if you want to add those, the measurement is 1 2/3 cups (250 grams) of coarsely chopped dried apricots to 4 medium mandarins; you place them in the mix at the same time with the flesh, rind, and water in the saucepan.

*Curious about the difference between jam, marmalade, jelly, and preserves? Check out this pithy explanation from The Straight Dope.

Buon appetito!

36 Beans of Wisdom to “Recipe: When Life Gives You Mandarins, Make Mandarin Jam”
  1. YUM! Thanks for your recipe, Michelle. I’ve never made jam before or done any canning at all, so I appreciate your extra tips. This is the year!

    Grazie! 🙂

    Enjoy Laura! If you have questions along the way, I’m here — although I warn you that after one batch of marmalade I’m certainly no expert hahaha 😀

  2. 04.06.2011

    WOW, looks so easy. I think if I made this my friends would think I had gone “Charlie Sheen” on them. Yes, that is HOW crazy it would be for me to make marmellata BUT I think I might have to try this! Grazie mille wise one!

    Haha it *is* easy, Maria…you do need to set aside some time, but the actual process isn’t too difficult. And I like this recipe because it doesn’t make *too* much so that if you’re still a novice like me, it’s not like you’re putting aside 20 jars of jam that might spoil or something (which is comforting to this beginner) 🙂

  3. Nothing more fun than making your own jam or marmalade! You can always leave the rind out on any – it will still work – but the trick is the pith (the white stuff on inside of rinds). The pith gives the rind the bitter taste so when you peel it, leave behind as much white as possible – then clean it off the fruit.
    BTW – especially in frugal Italy (wise people) research Tattler brand reuseable lids for the jars – they are expensive comparatively for initial purchase but they last for years – the lid and gasket fit inside the metal jar bands of most jars! Be careful if you use the parafin as any air holes allow the jam or marmalade to spoil!
    Most of all — have fun experimenting with the recipes and let us copy!!

    Will definitely share, Bonnie! I think part of the reason I liked this marmalade/jam so much was because of the sweetness of the fruit…I’m just not a bitter gal 😉 Hahaha….

  4. 04.06.2011

    Ach. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Could smell the freshness through the screen (almost). There is no comparison with the store stuff. None. I just opened an apricot marmalade I made last summer. I used a third of the sugar the store ones have. All I can taste is fruit with a bit of tart. On a piece of whole grain bread? Watch out.

    This one, the one you made – it’s not even in the same food group with orange marmalade you can buy.

    I’ve been doing it since 2004. And I have not yet died of botulism, which I take as a positive sign. It’s so easy and is very meditative if you just take an afternoon and dedicate it to preparing the fruit, sterilizing the jars and making the product.

    You go girlfriend. Simplicity at its richest, I say.

    Absolutely. There’s something so comforting and basic about making preserves. I loved every second even when I didn’t know whether the jam was set 🙂

  5. The colour is gorgeous. It’s like sunshine in a jar. I too am not a marmalade fan but I have noticed that as the years pass (for others not for me of course) that my tastes are changing. Isn’t it amazing that you can make something in December and enjoy it in April?

    Absolutely Joanne! My tastes are changing a bit as well, and I think I really set that in motion when I stopped using sugar in my coffee. Now for a snack I tend to want something savory, whereas before it was always sweet. Don’t think I’ll ever quite come around to liking very bitter things, though. Who knows?

  6. 04.06.2011

    I am so envious, in a nice way, that you have your own mandarins, we should be living further south 🙂

    Mandarins are a definite perk…as are the clementines mmmmmm 😀

  7. Joseph Chiaravalloti

    Seville (bitter) oranges are the way to go for a true marmalade. Sharp Swiss peelers by Kuhn-Rikon will take of the orange peel without digging into the white pith very much. These gadgets will peel pear tomatoes for puttanesca sauce.

    I don’t like the bitter marmalade, which is why I don’t normally like marmalade (and I have no idea what kind of mandarins we have (whatever came with the garden). The skins on them are not even really attached to the fruit; they’re more like a loose-fitting jacket over them, and they’re paper thin with the pith as weblike on the inside, so there’s really no way to peel ours without getting pith attached. As I said, the only way to get that pith off is to scrape with something, and a fingernail is cheaper than anything I could imagine 😉

  8. Megan, blogger

    Just a spoonful of sugar can make a huge difference with any food 🙂 I used to be the same way with grapefruit; there was nothing you could do to it that would make me interested. Then, a friend created a fruit dish using grapefruit and a few other fresh, delicious ingredients– and I became addicted.
    Summer is coming soon in the U.S. and I can’t wait for the fresh fruit season!

    I’m totally with you on the grapefruit; my mom convinced me about those with a bit of sugar as well 😉

  9. 04.07.2011

    As always I enjoy reading your posts. And such nice photos too. Thanks for posting a recipe that doesn’t make 16 quarts of jam (or similar impossible quantities).

    I hear you — I don’t need 16 quarts of marmellata either hahaha 😉

  10. 04.07.2011


    I have a Merkot Tangarine tree that is over bloomed this year. I can’t wait to try this recipe with this tangarine. It is a full bodied fruit with the littlest possible rind. Almost paper thin.

    Also have a “Sanbokan Lemon” tree which is the opposite, huge rind but fruit is so sweet you can eat it like candy.

    This ought to be a good experiment.

    Mille grazie and keep up the great blogging n “Eye on Italy” podcast.

    Love and light,

    check my blog “Is there more than 12 Steps?” at

    Sounds like it’ll be great, Richard, although you might want a *little* tartness from a more bitter lemon; I found that really helped bring out the mandarin flavor. Our rinds are also super thin, the pith is really just webbing on the fruit, which is why there’s no way to peel them without getting pith on the rind. Good luck, and keep me posted!

  11. Michelle, have some older women taken you under their wing? is that where you are getting these great ideas?
    I notice that Italian fruit preserves are done without pectin… that also means less sugar.
    I wish I could taste your marmellata, mi piace tanto marmelatta di mandarini

    I was actually happy to see this recipe without pectin, because I don’t think it would be easy for me to find. Although the older women around here jar tomatoes and veggies (eggplant is the biggie, and yes I know it’s technically a fruit, but you know what I mean), they don’t seem to make jam/marmellata. I don’t know if they just don’t eat it very much or why they don’t mess with it, but I just got the idea from the overabundance of mandarins we have — two huge trees prouduce *a lot* in season! That said, I’m going to hang out with P’s aunt when she makes the Easter cuzzupe this year with our fresh eggs 🙂

  12. Gil

    I recently become re-addicted to peach marmalade! My wife found a few jars of Sicilian marmalade at a local store that buys and sells overstocked items. It turns out that Sclafani Foods,, sells the same product under their own label so I have a constant supply. Goes real good with peanut butter on whole wheat or multi grain bread toasted!!!

    I’m a huge peach fan, too, Gil — can’t wait to try some peach jam!

  13. 04.07.2011

    I loved Joanne’s comment – like sunshine in a jar. My mouth was watering at the first photo.

    Sunshine in a jar is definitely a great way to describe this. Yum!

  14. 04.07.2011

    I adore marmalade and I love apricots, so I’ll need to get it in gear and try the original recipe. Of course, neither fruit is indigenous to this area so I’ll not the get the freshness of your marmalade. But that’s okay. We do what we can, don’t we?

    Indeed, Ally! The apricots in the original were dried, which might actually be easier for you to find any time of year 🙂

  15. 04.08.2011

    I used to be like you, a non-marmellata fan. Then I made my first at age 17 in campagna and I’ve been hooked since.
    That sunshine in a jar loos perfect dribbled over some nice aged cheese…
    Envy is me. We used to have a beautiful mandarin tree, but a zealous portiere pruned it at the wrong time and killed it. I still resent him, and every time I walk by the place where it stood, I cry a little.
    Happy to see the pectin-free version, although if you must, it can be found at any Italian supermarket (I think common cake mix brands make it). Bormioli also makes the perfect canning glass jars, is that what you’ve been using?

    Also, I wonder why the added apricot. For sweetness, you think? When I make fig marmalade, my Tuscan jam guru always forces me to add some white grapes, “per freschezza,” she says.

    Congratulations on your new skill, and on that gorgeous mandarin tree.
    (nostalgic weep)

    I think dried apricots might actually give it some tartness — my mandarins are super sweet hahaha 🙂 I forgot about making fig jam/marmalade…oh wow….

  16. 04.08.2011

    Gorgeous mandarins on that treee and equally gorgeous jam. Have a great weekend!

    Same to you, Nisrine!

  17. 04.08.2011

    Yum! That looks incredible Michelle! I can’t wait to return to Italy on June 4th!

    It’s coming fast, Deb!

  18. 04.08.2011

    Ele, you know you have arrived when you have a jam guru. <3

    So true!

  19. Gil

    My darling wife let me know that I should get more sleep as I posted the wrong link! See below for the right one:

    Haha noted, Gil…buona notte 🙂

  20. 04.09.2011

    Ha ha ha, Diana & Michelle, introducing jam guru Bruna–73 and never traveled outside of Pistoia.

    Love it!

  21. 04.09.2011

    I have never managed to get my marmalade to set. I use to be disappointed but I’ve grown to love semi-liquid marmalade on my toast. I think now even if I could get it to set properly I would keep it runny!!

    Haha I can believe it! Sometimes “mistakes” end up being blessings in disguise 🙂

  22. casalba

    Oh! Looks like your’e hooked! There’s no going back now. Just wait until you hit the chutney and pickle stage – you’ll never leave the kitchen. (I’m a bit jealous of your mandarin trees.)

    Haha we’ll see! I’m not a huge chutney fan, but we will be doing eggplant at least this year….

  23. 04.12.2011


    I too have had an aversion to canning/preserving. Although I don’t know why, for whatever reason I have always thought it was some mythic process that involves fancy techniques and possibly magic. But I’m slowly coming around to the idea of it actually being do-able, especially with your recipe! I could see myself giving fresh jam as gifts (and loving the oooos and aaahhs that would inevitably come with it). I’m so jealous of your mandarins though, I wish I had such nice fresh fruit! Sadly, that’s not so possible in my tiny NYC apartment.

    Definitely not nearly as scary and intimidating as I thought — I hope you try it out!


  24. 04.12.2011

    I love bitter marmelade, so I’d probably leave the whole rind if I had your gorgeous mandarins. Have you thought about making curd with the juice? It is quite easy and soo good (totally non Italian though, although, as you say, I don’t think people make much marmelade in Italy, traditionally. Never figured out why).

    I thought about making lemon curd, yes…not sure I’ll like it, but it’s certainly worth an experiment 🙂

  25. 04.13.2011

    Wow, beautiful mandarins! Love eating them fresh and have never really liked citrus based jams or marmalades but it could just mean that I was not trying good stuff – and this definitely looks delicious!
    This winter there was an offerta speciale at the local Coop and I had about 5 kilos of mandarins that even I was having trouble eating – so another great recipe to try to use up those mandarins is…. mandarin sorbet!! I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for blood oranges:
    Came out delicious, I think I managed to eat most of that all by myself 🙂

    Congrats! That looks like a great recipe indeed 🙂 Thanks for coming by, Lourdes!

  26. Adam

    We too had a couple of mandarin trees at my mom’s backyard. I never thought of making a jam out from those oranges before, probably this time I will, now that I have your recipe.

    Thanks for sharing Michelle, at least now I’ve got something new to surprise my mom with my home-made jam skills, thanks to you.


  27. 04.20.2011

    ciao Michelle! i love the pictures and would love to try the marmalade..
    you are soooo right! i felt exactly the same way…there is nothing that bits home-made and home grown fruits and veggies!
    sunny smiles from tulip land,

    Thanks so much Jana! Always nice to “see” you 🙂

  28. 05.03.2011

    girl, you live the sweet life. no pun intended. mandarin trees in your yard? how awesome is that. waste not, want not. the jam looks stunning. I love orange marmalades…

    You should give it a go, Bren! I know you’d love it 🙂

  29. Neil

    That looks absolutely delicious, especially spread across a thick crust of bread.
    Going to have to give this a go.
    I’ve made conventional marmalade but never thought about using mandarins.

    Let me know how it goes!

  30. 05.25.2011

    This looks fantastically delicious. If I was good at making things I would so do this. Hmph!

    Well homemade shampoo sounds fun too 😉

  31. Kirsty

    Thanks for the recipe! I made it today with a bunch of leftover mandarins and it is delicious! My kitchen looks like a jam factory exploded in it, but it was worth it 🙂

    Haha can be messy indeed, but the end result is definitely worth it, I agree!

  32. Leanne

    Thank you very much for all this great information … this is the first time I’ve made mandarin jam — from fruit from our own tree — and it’s worked really well, thanks to your detailed info, too. Thank you also for explaining how the rinds becoming candied and transparent is a sign that it’s done. After half an hour’s simmering, it still looked like mandarin pieces in water … but then, all of a sudden, at about 35 minutes, it began to look like jelly/jam! All worked superbly!

    michelle Reply:

    So happy to hear you enjoyed it, Leanne! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  1. [...] make Michelle Fabio’s mandarin jam recipe, which you can find here with the super cute title When ...
  2. [...] spend it in the kitchen instead. And I’m so excited about the results. Bottled mandarins, and mand...



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