‘Tis the season’ -- for winter citrus! And for this preserving princess, that means the marmalade workshop is up and running. It’s true that marmalade requires the extra step of preparing and softening the rind, but that’s why I make a beeline for the Satsuma mandarin orange, which has a mild-flavored, manageable skin, making marmalade projects a snap. The result: Sweet yet bright flavor notes accented with textures of rind (but not too much), and a burst of sunshine in a jar during the darkest time of the year.
Mandarin Orange Marmalade
Adapted from “West Coast Cooking” by Greg Atkinson
Wide-mouth funnel, jar lifter (aka canning tongs), ladle, canning rack, a pot deep and wide enough to fit a canning rack and jars with the lid on.
5 pounds Satsuma mandarin oranges, preferably organic
2 cups water
1⁄4 cup bottled lemon juice
4 cups granulated sugar
Wash, dry and peel the oranges. In small batches, stack the rinds on a cutting board and cut into very thin sliver-like strips, as thin as you can get. You’ll need a total of 2 cups sliced orange rinds; discard the rest. Place the sliced orange rinds in a small bowl. Boil the water and pour over the rinds. This helps to soften and mellow out the rinds.
Place the orange segments in a food processor or blender and puree along with the lemon juice. Transfer to a large saucepan or pot (think wide versus deep). Add the rinds and soaking water.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, then stir in the sugar, and cook over medium-high heat until thickened (and reduced by about half). Stir regularly to keep from scalding, and adjust the heat as necessary, but you do want an actively bubbling mixture. This step could take up to 1 hour.
Marmalade is ready when it reaches the “gel” stage, 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. You can also do the “wrinkle” test, which I learned from preserving expert Sherri Brooks Vinton: Place a clean plate in the freezer for a few minutes to chill. Place a few drops of hot marmalade onto the cold plate and allow to cool for a minute or so. Push on the marmalade with your finger as if you are trying to wipe it off. If it wrinkles, the marmalade is ready.
Meanwhile, prepare the jars for processing using the water bath method:
Use half-pint or 4-ounce jars with the two-part lids sold by Kerr and Ball brands. Wash the rings and jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Set aside. Place the lids in a small bowl or saucepan and pour hot (not boiling) water on top; this will help soften the rubber seals and prime them for canning.
Use a pot that is deep and wide enough for a canning rack. Make sure the lid of the pot is still able to sit on top with the rack inside. Arrange the jars in the canning rack. Add water to the pot until it is at least 1 inch above your jars. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Keep the jars in the boiling water until ready to process.
Remove the hot jars one by one from the boiling water to a kitchen towel-lined “staging” area with a jar lifter (aka canning tongs). Keep the pot covered and the water boiling.
Rest the wide-mouthed funnel on top of a jar and ladle in the sauce, leaving 1⁄4 inch of headspace. With a nonmetal chopstick or other flat-edged item, release trapped air by running along the inside edge of the filled jar. With a kitchen towel, wipe clean the rim of each jar. Place the lid on top, then gently screw on the ring (and not too tight).
With the jar lifter, return the filled and covered jars to the boiling water.
Cover and process for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and with the jar lifter, transfer the jars, one by one, to the towel-lined area. Listen for the “ping” of each jar, a sign that you have a proper seal.
Allow to cool for at least 12 hours. Remove the rings. Check once more for a proper seal by lifting each jar by its lid. Label and date the jars and store in a cool, dark place.
Gift jars should have rings on, so that lucky recipients can store in the refrigerator after opening.
Makes about 6 half-pint or 12 four-ounce jars.