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!]
- 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.
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.
- 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.