I have learned over time that you can make marmalade out of any citrus fruit. Jan had asked me to buy some mandarin oranges, but she was having trouble peeling them with her broken arm. I decided that I needed to use them up before they spoiled.
I have gotten very particular in my marmalade making. These days, I usually use only the juice, the zest, and a bit of sugar. I have done this with mandarins before, but they were so small and the skins were so thin that it was a hassle to prepare them.
Note: It was also hard to juice them after the skins had been zested. They tended to fall apart when I tried to juice them.
I ran into this same problem when I tried to make kumquat marmalade. I went back to my old style of marmalade that used the whole peel and pulp. This left me without enough liquid, so I decided to add some filtered water.
Karl’s Mandarin Marmalade
4 lbs. mandarin oranges (makes about 6 cups of fruit pulp)
6+ cups filtered water
9 cups sugar
1. Rinse the fruit and take one small slice to remove the stem end.
2. Quarter each fruit and remove any pips.
Note: Do not worry too much about missing a pip. If you slice carefully you will feel the edge of the knife snag on a hidden pip. Pull the blade of the knife directly away from the fruit and the snagged pip will come right out. Toss the pip and continue slicing.
3. Put the fruit pulp in a non-reactive pot and add 2-4 cups of water.
Tip: Never put acidic fruit in an anodized aluminum pot. I learned that the hard way, when I lost my best pot.
4. Bring the pot just to a boil, cover it, and remove it from the heat.
5. Set the pot aside for 24 hours.
Tip: This is a trick I learned from years of making orange marmalade. If you proceed instantly to making your jam, it will taste slightly bitter. This quick heating and long resting breaks down the bitter compounds and give you a mellower, fruiter, marmalade. I repeated this heat and rest process three times. The mandarin peels were a bit more bitter than the navel oranges. Letting the pulp rest for three days help with this bitterness.
Note: The mandarin peels absorbed all of the liquid in the pot. When it seemed too thick I added water as I though necessary to keep it from scorching. The recipe above includes this water that I added on the fly. The process of heating and standing the fruit mix will also have some amount of liquid loss—as much as half a cup per heating.
6. Prepare you jam jars.
Tip: This recipe filled six 12 oz. jars and two 8 oz. jars.
Note: Put the jars in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the pot to s boil and sterilize the jars for 5-10 minutes. After you turn off the heat, put the lids in the hot water for a few minutes.
7. Lay the jars upside down on a clean dish towel, at the ready.
8. Before you reheat the fruit mixture, pour it into a large measuring cup, so you know how much pulp you have.
Tip: You want to use about ¾ of a cup of sugar for every cup of fruit and water.
Note: You can adjust how much jam you will end up with at this point. I have been reducing the amount of water I add to my marmalades to make the flavors as intense as possible. The recipe I started with added three cups of water to every one cup of fruit pulp.
9. Return the pot to the stove and bring it to a high simmer.
Tip: This is a fine tuned thing. You want the heat high enough that the marmalade jells in a reasonable time, but not so high that it boils over or scorches.
Note: When you use a high heat you must almost constantly stir and scrape the bottom of the pot. I have drifted to using a lower heat, which I do not have to watch as closely. This takes more time, but is less stressful. It usually takes my marmalade 45 minutes to an hour to jell.
10. Stir in the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, 3-4 minutes.
11. Continue to simmer, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the marmalade jells.
Tip: After about half an hour, scoop up a teaspoon of the marmalade and lay it on a small plate with an ice cube—this cools the plate and speeds up the jelling of the test sample. After 4-5 minutes pour the marmalade back into the pot. If the sample has started to jell it will come off the spoon in a wide sheet—instead of a thin stream.
Note: When you stop cooking the mixture is a matter of personal choice. If you jar the marmalade is soon as it starts to jell you will have a soft runny marmalade. While this is easier to spread, it may leak juice and separate over time. Cooking the mixture for another 5-15 minutes past where it start to jell will give you a firmer marmalade that is shelf stable.
Warning: Be careful! At this point, the cooking marmalade is basically sweet napalm, it will stick and burn you badly if you get any on your skin.
12. Once the marmalade is ready pour it into the jars and screw on the lids.
Tip: If you are going to keep this marmalade for more than a month or two you should put the jars in a hot water bath and sterilize the jams to extend their shelf life.
Note: One of the most useful tools for this is a canning funnel.