Every Christmas for more than the last decade I have made marmalade as a giveaway. A few years ago, I bought a microplane zester that produced very fine bits of rind. I also stopped using any extra water, just the zest and juice of the oranges. This micro marmalade was an intense flavorful jam, but it did not make as much as the old way I had been using. This year I ended up giving away all of the marmalade I produced and we had none left for ourselves.
I have learned over time that you can make marmalade out of any citrus fruit. I was looking at a bag of mandarin oranges and thought, “Why just make boring old navel orange marmalade?” I bought a bag and produced this gem of a jam.
Note: Mandarins are very small fruits. They have very thin, delicate peels that are hard to zest. They also produce much more zest than juice. You will only need half of the zest that these mandarins will produce. You can make orange infused sugar with the rest, if you do not want to waste the excess zest.
Karl’s Micro Mandarin Marmalade
2 lb. mandarin oranges, juiced (about 2 cups)
½ cup mandarin zest
¾ cup sugar
Note: This recipe produces a bit more than two 12 oz. jars of jam.
1. Zest and juice the mandarins.
Tip: Once you zest the oranges, they will be very hard to juice with a rotary juicer. You will have to support the peel using your palm.
2. Put the fruit and zest into a non-reactive pot and bring the juice mixture just to a boil.
3. As soon as the juice mixture comes to a full boil, remove it from the heat and cover the pot.
4. Set the pot aside and let it sit for at least 12 hours.
Tip: You may skip this step if you are in a hurry, but this heating and resting allows the bitter compounds in the rinds to break down into the complex flavor compounds that you associate with “real” orange and lemon flavors. This resting period is one of the secrets to my jam’s intense, but smooth taste. Twelve hours is a minimum, but I have let the mix meld for as much as two days, with a second heating after 24 hours.
5. Bring the fruit mixture to a gentle boil.
Tip: You will have had some lost of the volume to evaporation from the heating and resting of the mixture.
6. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
7. Cook the jam until it starts to jell.
Tip: This process can usually take over an hour with navel oranges, but the mandarin orange juice started to jell after only 25 minutes. How long it takes depends a lot on how close to a full boil you are cooking the mix. A low boil takes a bit longer, but a high boil must be constantly watched and stirred to prevent boil-over and scorching.
Note: Testing for jelling: 1) Take a teaspoon and scoop out about half a teaspoon of the jam. 2) Let it cool for two minutes and then pour it back into the pot. 3) If the mix pours in a single stream then it has not started to jell. 3) If the mix slides off of the spoon in a wide sheet it has started to jell.
8. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and seal the lids, not quite tight.
Tip: You want the lids tight enough that the water does not leak into the jar, but loose enough that the heated air can escape. This is about an eight of a turn short of completely tight. The easiest way to do this is to tighten the lid completely and then unscrew the lid an eight of a turn.
9. Put the jars in a hot water bath and boil for ten minutes.’
10. Remove the jars and seal the lid tightly.