I often find this time of year to be difficult. The days are so short (it's pretty much dark by 4:30pm) and the weather alternates between rain, snow, freezing rain and cold (or a combination). Possibly the hardest thing about this is that I know it's just the beginning. It's not even winter yet, technically.
Mandarins are one of the few redeeming things about this time of year. We've already gone through about four 5 kg boxes. One of those went to making mandarin jam. I have been wanting to make mandarin jam for a couple of years now. Last year, the time got away from me and before I knew it, the grocery store stopped carrying mandarins.
After spending some time scouring the internet for recipes, I came across this post. I made a variation of the recipe, using more oranges and adding two vanilla beans.
Mandarin Vanilla Jam
1 kilo (generous 2 lbs) mandarins, any variety: clementines, tangerines, satsumas, etc., preferably organic
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar, or more to taste
juice of 2-3 lemons
2 sticks of vanilla, split down the middle
Wash 2-3 of your mandarins and zest them, carefully avoiding the white pith underneath. You should have about a tablespoon. Peel all of your fruit, removing as much of the pith and filaments as possible. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, cut each mandarin in half around its equator, and pick out any seeds (I didn't bother doing this since they didn't have seeds). Place the halves along with any juice they've expelled in a food processor and process for about a minute (careful not to fill too much because the juice will leak out the top), until you have a more or less smooth puree.
Combine the mandarin puree, tablespoon of zest, sugar and lemon juice in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat so it continues to boil gently. Allow the mixture to cook, stirring occasionally, until it sets, about 25-30 minutes (I left it on closer to 45 minutes and still found that it wasn't that thick -- possible because I used more oranges.
To test the set, place a small saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes, then drizzle a teaspoon of hot jam on it. Allow to cool, then run your finger through it. If it holds the trough, it's set. Also taste for sweetness at this point - if you think it could use more, add a bit more sugar and cook another minute or two; do the same with lemon juice if the acidity needs some perking up.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal tightly and turn upside down until cool. Or use your tried-and-true canning method. Or simply keep in a closed container in the fridge for up to a month.
Verdict: So far, so good. It's a lighter flavour than my berry jams. For example, I tried the mandarin jam with peanut butter and the flavour didn't come through very much. I'm going to try it as a topping on ice cream or with pancakes. But, I'm quite happy that it turned out!