I love making jam.
The whole process is so rewarding….from picking the fruit to hearing the lid “pop” when it has sealed. I don’t eat jam very often, and Hubby doesn’t even like it, but it is very satisfying to bring a friend a jar of something I put time and love into making. It is like handing them a hug.
The first time I made jam was in 1997 with my friend Sue, (from Sue’s Watermelon Salad) and the experience of picking the peaches from her tree, then transforming them into little packages of love, got me hooked forever. And making jam with a friend is a double delight.
The thing is….I can’t just follow a recipe and make jam. I must have inner science nerd tendencies because I ALWAYS have to experiment and see what I can come up with in my kitchen lab. (The one exception is lemon curd but that is fodder for another day.) My creativity has taken me to some inedible experiments (like crystallized ginger/pear that tasted like spicy sugary mush) and some rather delightful ones (like fig/basil). Regardless, I love doing it and it usually works out okay.
So when I found myself with an overload of mandarins recently, I invited my friend Maili (from Maili’s Orzo Salad) over to help me concoct something with them that might resemble jam. My recipe searches kept leading me to marmalade, but I like marmalade even less than jam. Marmalade doesn’t do double-time in a sauce which is how many of my jam experiments end up being used. So while I call this a marmalade, it really acts more like a jam.
Maili and I work so well together in the kitchen it feels like a wonderful non-choreographed dance. We throw out ideas, we question each other, we laugh constantly, we eat, we talk, we get distracted and go off onto tangents, and sometimes we even cry. But, no matter what, we always have fun. And somehow the food turns out delicious! Our mandarin marmalade was so surprisingly good, we were dipping into the jar and scooping out tastes just to be sure. Yep. We are sure.
“It is very satisfying to bring a friend a jar of something I put time and love into making. It is like handing them a hug.” – Cynthia Spivey
Mandarin Marmalade with Maili
1-1/2 to 2 lbs mandarin oranges
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
With a vegetable peeler, peel off the outer layer of rind of about 8 mandarins, leaving behind the white pith. You don’t need to get the whole rind. You should end up with about 1 cup of rind pieces.
Peel 1 lemon the same way.
Now cut all the skin and pith off just the mandarins. Cut in half and remove seeds. Put all the skinned and seeded halves in a blender with 2 cups of water and 6 T lemon juice. Blend until no large chunks remain. Pour into pot with sugar.
Cook over medium heat, stirring and watching carefully to keep it at a high simmer but not boiling. It should start to thicken after 30-40 minutes. Test by putting a tiny spoonful onto a small chilled plate and return the plate to the refrigerator for a few minutes. The jam should be thick enough to slowly drip down the plate but not run off quickly.
When it is ready, remove from heat and pour into clean, sterilized jars and close lids.
When cool, store in refrigerator.
If you are using canning jars, you can proceed to a water bath canning method for non-refrigerated storage.