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I’m a compulsive jam maker. Making raspberry, strawberry, plum and apricot jam is a summertime ritual and then once the season cools and citrus fruits are in their prime I make marmalade. A few pots made from each fruit is enough to last between seasons.
Last week, the citrus stalls at our Saturday Farmers market were laden with citrus fruit: oranges, limes, lemons and cumquats. I made a bee line straight to the mandarins because I’d been hoarding a recipe for mandarin and star anise jam since spring last year. I was keen to try it out.
Alarm bells rang when I read the recipe before starting, the fruit seemed to play second fiddle to water, sugar and lemon juice and the method had a clear instruction to discard the zest, the most flavour filled part of the fruit. Despite my hesitation I followed the recipe and made a small batch of the jam. As anticipated the fruit flavour was lost in the over dosed sugary sweetness. On the upside, the perfume of the star anise was alluring. It was pleasant enough, but I wanted to taste the mandarins.
To prove to myself that it is possible to make a delicious mandarin preserve in which the fruit sings, I tried again. This time I included the zest for flavour and the seeds bundled into a muslin bag to extract the pectin. Having depleted my star anise stock with the first batch, I added fresh root ginger instead and then at the end a slosh of Aperol for bitterness, the hallmark of a good breakfast marmalade.
It was a productive day in the kitchen. I added five jars of our favourite cumquat marmalade and five jars of experimental mandarin preserves to the pantry.
Mandarin and Ginger Marmalade with Aperol
40g peeled root ginger
250g g castor sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Aperol
Peel the mandarins. Remove as much of the white pith as possible from the fruit.
Halve each mandarin, flick out the seeds and collect them in a small bowl.
Break the fruit into segments and put into a large shallow saucepan.
Cut the white pith from the back of the zest. Discard the pith.
Cut the zest into fine julienne and add to the pan.
Slice the ginger finely on a mandolin then cut into fine julienne. Add to the pan.
Tie the mandarin seeds into a little bundle in a piece of muslin and add to the pan.
Add the water, then bring the pot to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and sugar, increase the heat to a high simmer and cook until the jam is set*.
When the jam is set, remove it from the heat, lift out the bundle of seeds and use a pair of tongs to give it a good squeeze, then discard.
Stir the Aperol into the hot jam, allow to rest for 5 minutes then ladle into sterilised jars*.
Seal while hot.
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I think you are right and many recipes for jam and marmalade tend to use more sugar than fruit. I always reduce it. I love how you’ve combined ginger with mandarin since the citrus is generally sweet and it needs a sharp counterpart. Lucky for you that you can make lovely spelt sourdough to go with all that jam and marmalade! Jams make great gifts, too (says a fellow compulsive jam maker).
Thanks Deb, Bittersweet marmalade on sourdough brings back memories of icy cold misty winter mornings, a thing of the past for me. I’ve made 3 different marmalades in the past couple of weeks and I’ve given all but one jar of each to neighbours
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What a fabulous recipe. I’m not much of a jam maker myself although after reading your post I am sorely tempted to try. These are all flavours I love. Looks and sounds absolutely delicious.
There is no commercial preserve that tastes as good as what you cook yourself Tracey, I urge you to give it a try, you’ll be glad you did
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I would love to try this but I do not have Aperol. What shall I substitute it with?
Campari would work well too, or else you could omit it altogether. The marmalade will be a little sweeter without the bitter spirit