Mandarins – those teeny little, easy-to-peel orange-type fruit – are everywhere in the Far North of NZ at the moment. They are truly one of the best things about winter around here. I have eaten my fill fresh, so it is time to start bottling. I picked these little beauties up from a roadside stall down at the end of someone’s driveway, just down the road.
Just where I will stop in bottling these prolific fruit, I do not know. What I do know is that I now have 11 medium sized jars sitting on my kitchen bench. As I’m writing this, I’m listening out to hear each of their lids pop as they cool, to let me know that their seals are good.
This time I have done something different, more healthy with my little gems. Instead of filling the jars with a hot, sugary solution, I’ve preserved half in hot water. The half with the sugary solution also has a wonderful mix of spices to create a really interesting, yummy flavour that goes great with vanilla ice cream or natural yoghurt.
Prepare jars and lids: Wash jars and lids thoroughly to clean, then rinse. Stand the clean jars in an oven dish and bake until hot (you can also boil them to steralise them). I go for around 100 degrees celsius for as long as it takes me to peel the fruit. Place the corresponding lids in a saucepan, cover them with water and boil. Leave them simmering in the water until you need them.
Liquid: Boil as much water as you need to fill your jars almost to the top, but above the fruit. Prepare two pots if you are preparing a sugar syrup as well. Google to find the sugar syrup recipe that suits you.
Fruit: Peel as many mandarins as you have jars for, taking care to discard any pith that you have time to scrap off. Rinse with cold water to remove any dirt that may have come off the skins.
Bottle: Place hot jars on a thick towel or place mat – be careful to keep them and their rims clean and touch them as little as possible. Fill the jars with fruit, leaving room at the top for half to 1 cm of water. I add full and segmented mandarins to fill up the gaps. Add the water and spices now, then screw the hot lids on carefully and tightly. Leave them to cool. All lids should pop down and become flat when the jars have cooled. If they have not, do not keep them as they may not preserve correctly or safely.
There are many more preserving recipes online, but this works for me.