It is a bit of a job peeling the mandarins, but you can’t leave the skins on to make this beautiful jam. It is quite a quantity to get through, but if you have three or four friends over this will move really quickly while everyone catches up on news. Working alone you may well end up in a trance from the monotonous concentration. Use brightly coloured, sweet, no-pip mandarins if possible. You can add a piece of cinnamon or some cardamom for a different touch but I love this jam just simply on the breakfast table next to chocolate loaf, white loaf and strawberry jam. It makes me feel as if I’m strolling through a citrus grove. This is also great for using as a crust on pork. Roast a pork loin, spread it with mustard, this jam and some breadcrumbs and bake for another half an hour until the crust is crisp.
First of all, sterilize your jars for when you have a panful of hot jam ready to bottle. It is always best to use several small jars, rather than one or two big ones. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, or in the dishwasher, and rinse well in hot water. Then put the jars (and the lids) on a baking tray and leave in a 120°C (235°F/Gas ½) oven for at least 20 minutes, or until you are ready to use them. (Don’t use a tea towel to dry them — they should dry thoroughly in the oven.)
Rinse the mandarins in warm water and then peel them. Keep the peel from half of them, taking off the black eye where the stem connected to the fruit.
Divide all the mandarins into segments, then remove the skin from each segment. A small pair of scissors or a sharp paring knife will be useful in cutting the pith line, then gently pulling this up will help loosen the skin. Sometimes they come away easily, sometimes not. Try to keep some segments whole if possible, but it is not a problem if they break up (many of them will). Put the segments in a colander set over another bowl to catch the juice.
Roughly tear up the peel you have saved and put it in a large heavy-based pan with the sugar, the collected mandarin juice and
Add the mandarin segments, keeping a small handful back, and any further juice that has accumulated. Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 30 minutes or so, taking care that the jam doesn’t colour and caramelize. Stir often with
Add the handful of mandarins about 5 minutes before the jam is ready, to add a splash of brighter colour and some texture. Spoon into the warm sterilized jars and close the lids tightly. Turn the jars upside down, cover with a tea towel and leave to completely cool (this creates a vacuum that can be seen on the lid). Turn upright and store in a cool dark place. The jam will keep for 10–12 months before it is opened. After opening, you need to keep it in the fridge.
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