Ahhhhh Mildura.... the perfect place for picking sweet and juicy citrus fruits at the start of winter...
About 2 weeks ago, my father in law and his brother went on their annual fruit picking adventure in Mildura... and boy did they go nuts! He literally came back with boxes and boxes of oranges and mandarins - and i'm talking BOXES, like, massive ones that even i couldn't lift (and i'm a pretty strong cookie).
After giving bags of them away to family and friends I still had bucket loads of mandarins left over. I didn't want them to spoil so I thought - why not try and make marmalade?! Can't be that hard right? And it wasn't - it was just super time consuming, especially when you have a toddler tugging at your legs saying "mama, mama - up!" All up, it took about 2 hours of prep and then an hr and a half of boiling.
So, with what's the difference between jam and marmalade you ask? Jamis normally made with chopped or crushed fruit - any kind of fruit, where as marmalade is citrus based which includes the flesh, skin and rind. The bitterness of the peel offsets the sweetness of the jelly which is why a lot of people dislike it. For me, this is the best part of it.
Jam's and marmalade's are pretty easy to make provided you get the right ratio of citrus and sugar. There are plenty of recipes available online, but I prefer to stick to an old family favorite that includes all of the fruit including the skin, pith and seeds. Most of the recipes I've come across tell you to discard the pips, but they are actually full of pectin, which is essential for setting your marmalade.
Ok - let's get to it!
Mandarin Marmalade - Makes approx 4 250ml jars
16 mandarin's (approx 2kg)
1.2 kg sugar - I used half as I didn't want it too sweet
6 cups of water
Juice of 1 large lemon
1. Peel mandarins carefully, trying to keep them in one piece if possible. Then cut about half of the peels into thin strips (julienne style) and set aside.
2. Remove as much of the pith as possible and set aside.
3. Cut the mandarin's in half and remove the seeds. Set aside the seeds with the pith. Use a light, clean handkerchief or a muslin cloth and wrap the seeds and pith together tightly.
4. Add mandarin's, peel strips, the parcel of pith and seeds, lemon juice, sugar and water into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved.
5. Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium heat and let it bubble for a good 1-2 hrs, stirring occasionally until jell point is reached*
6. Once ready, remove the parcel and discard the pith and seeds. Pour the marmalade into sterilized hot jars**. Seal 15 mins later, or when the jars are cool enough to handle.
* Jell point testing
Put a plate in the freezer and chill. Take it out when ready to test, add a teaspoon of jam onto the plate. Wait around 40 seconds for it to cool and draw a line in the jam with a knife. If it wrinkles, then your jam is ready. If not, keep boiling for another 10 mins and retest. Repeat until jam is set.
** How to sterlise jars
Preheat oven to 160C. Wash the jars with warm soapy water and rinse. Shake them off (no need to dry), leave on a baking tray and put in the oven for at least 20 mins. Make sure you time this well so you are taking your jars out of the oven as your jam is ready. Do NOT add cold food to the hot jars as it will shatter. Seal jars when they are cool enough to handle.