mandarin orange marmalade

Holy buckets. I haven't posted for almost a month! I'm sorry, dear readers, for abandoning you in this cold, cold hour of need. There's good news though: this mandarin orange marmalade will bring sunshine to even the dreariest day. Its bright, tart, shimmering citrus flavor will last up to a year. Are you afraid to can at home, or you've never tried it before? I promise, home-canning your own jams, jellies, and marmalades is simple and incredibly rewarding. The results are easily 10,000% (scientific data at work here folks) better than what you can buy at the store. Here's why: you control everything. You can pick the very best fruit, control how much sugar is added, and be certain that there are no icky preservatives or chemicals in your beautiful spreads.

I haven't always been a fan of marmalades. In fact, I don't really like oranges that much. With one exception, of course. Come wintertime, you might find some unique varieties of citrus in your local grocery store. Cara cara oranges. Sumo mandarins. Satsumas. Meyer lemons. Blood oranges. These are not your old standby navel oranges, oh no. They are a whole different strata of citrus goodness. They're only available a few weeks a year, which is all the more reason to snatch them up and make something fantastic with them. This marmalade is made with 100% Sumo mandarin oranges, which are my all-time favorites. They are not attractive fruit. At all. But, they hold incredibly sweet, highly flavorful, and bursting-with-juice fruit inside their wrinkly peels. You want to pick Sumos that are heavy for their size- this means they will be really juicy- and nice and wrinkly. Those peels will shrug right off, and you'll just have to resist eating them all before you can marma them up. Sumo mandarins taste like those beloved mandarin orange segments that come in the cans, laced with syrup; all on their own, without any intervention.

Home canning is not for the faint of heart. By that I mean, it will take time. Lots of time. It doesn't necessarily require skill or finesse, but you are going to need to devote a few hours to the process. You don't need a bunch of fancy equipment, but you will need jars, new lids, bands, a large pot, something to keep the jars off the bottom of your processing pot, and I recommend a jar lifter but you could do without. Most grocery stores will carry all the supplies you need. This recipe also calls for liquid pectin.

A few notes: you must use a clean, fresh canning lid each time you process jars. The sealant the lids use is only good one time: after that, they must be discarded. These are very easy to find. If a canning recipe calls for lemon juice, you need to use bottled juice. The processed juice has a standard level of acidity required to set your recipe. Be very careful changing the amount of sugar called for in a recipe- it will affect the set of your jelly, and can also affect the shelf life. You can find tons more great home canning information here and here

I created this recipe with inspiration from dozens of marmalades around the internet. I like the finished product to be well set, with only a little bitterness, and lots of citrus flavor. I actually had to re-process this marmalade because it didn't set properly the first time- read on to see what happened, or scroll on down to the bottom for the recipe if you're an old hand. Make sure you have everything you need on hand and set up before you get started, and good luck!

I'll be giving away a 4-ounce jar of this marmalade to a commenter on this recipe chosen at random- I'll pick the winner on February 25th by noon. Leave a comment if you want to try a jar!

Here's how it's done:

Wash your oranges (I used four) very well and dry them thoroughly. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the top layer of the zest in large strips, trying to avoid the white pith when possible. Sumo skins are pretty thick, so this shouldn't be too tough.

Finely chop your zest into thin strips or small pieces- I like mine in little bits instead of ribbons. To each their own.

Pour the zest (you should have about 1 cup) into a large pot with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, until the zest is soft and easily pierced. While the zest is boiling, prepare your orange segments.

Hey buddy! There's that easy peel, slipping right off. You want to discard everything but the actual fruit- no seeds, membranes, pith, or peel.

When I made this marmalade, I used the membrane, pith, and seeds to add natural pectin, instead of adding commercial pectin. With most oranges this will work great, but Sumos have very few seeds, which is the main source of pectin. Despite following the process exactly, I knew this was a risk, and my beautiful marmalade was more of a delicious mandarin orange syrup. So, I re-processed it with commercial liquid pectin, and it set beautifully. If you used different oranges for this recipe that had more seeds, you could process it without using commercial pectin. If you'd like that recipe, leave a comment below, and I can tell you how.

Now that you have your oranges all ready to go, your zest is probably fully cooked. Strain it over a large bowl, catching the cooking liquid underneath.

Combine the zest, orange segments, sugar, 4 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, and lemon juice in a large pot. (The picture below is from my re-processing. The orange segments will break down as the mixture boils.) Don't turn on the burner yet.

Before turning on your marmalade mixture, set your canning equipment up. Prepare a large pot or canner by filling it with water and setting on another burner to boil over high heat. You need a rack or something on the bottom of your canning pot to keep the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pot- danger! danger!- but I just use a few old canning bands tied together with kitchen twine to the size of my large stockpot. Clean and sanitize your canning jars and bands in boiling water.

Fortunately for me, our apartment water heater is set to 'burning hellfire', which means I can get boiling water right out of the tap.

It is extremely important that the jars stay hot until they are filled with marmalade- this keeps them from shattering due to temperature differential. Only take them out of their warm place (boiling water, a dishwasher on sanitize cycle, even your oven on 'warm' after washing them) RIGHT before you're going to pour the liquid in. Also, try not to burn yourself. It's a bit tricky at this stage.

Set up a cushy towel on the counter next to your canning situation, Remember: rapidly changing temperatures are not your friend here. You don't want to set boiling jars down on a cold countertop. Danger! Remember what I said about this not being for the faint of heart? It's totally safe as long as you take all the necessary precautions and respect the dangerous aspects of the process.

NOW turn on your marmalade mixture over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. This is a picture of my nephew hugging Truman because I didn't have a chance to take pictures of this part.

DSC_0198.JPG

Aww.

When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil and can't be stirred down, immediately add the liquid pectin all at once. Boil for one full minute, then immediately remove from the heat. 

Ladle the mixture into your hot, dried, sanitized jars. Try not to burn yourself 16,876 times. Wipe the rims and threads of each jar carefully with a clean cloth dipped in- you guessed it- boiling water.

Top each jar with a new canning lid, centering the lids carefully over the jars.

Add bands to the jars, tightening them to just normal finger tight. 

Very carefully, place your filled jars into your boiling water bath. If you don't have room for them all in the canner at once, set the extras into a hot water bath until the first group is processed. 

Once the water comes back to a rolling boil, put the lid on and set a timer for ten minutes. The cans need to have 1-2" of water all around.

When the time is up, remove the pot from the heat and let sit for five minutes. Then pull out the jars very carefully, setting them on the counter on top of the towel. You want to disturb the jars as little as possible for the next 24 hours.

Oh hi there, beautiful! Stay with me all year, Sumo mandarins! 

The jars will tink-tink-tink as they seal over the next few hours. The next day, check for a seal by doing the finger test on top of each can. If the lid moves, your can did not seal. You can keep any unsealed jars in the fridge and they will still keep 6-8 months, unopened.

Properly sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dry place for at least a year. Once you open a jar, it should last in the fridge for about six months, but if you see mold forming-toss it. Except the jar! Think of all the beautiful jellies yet to come!

Please enjoy the marmalade, and remember I will pick a random commenter to win a 4-ounce jar of marmalade on February 25th by noon. Leave a comment telling me why I should pick you!

Here's the recipe, but don't be afraid to ask questions below: