The mandarins I’d retrieved at my Great Aunt and Uncle’s old property sat in their particularly urgent shade of orange on the kitchen bench top as a constant reminder of my failure to deal with them.
Last week, in a moment of weakness, I’d spotted the abandoned tree laden with fruit, and I couldn’t fight the promise of golden, sticky, oozy, gooey jammy goodness. I filled a big tub with the mandarins and tucked it in among the furniture and other relics we’d retrieved that day.
There is something utterly irresistible about seemingly ‘forgotten’ fruit. The romance of discovery is intoxicating and each one seems like a tiny present just for you. What a gift (you think), lucky me! Look at all this free fruit! Aren’t I clever…
Obviously, it had been sufficient time since my last attempt at jam: sufficient enough to forget the trauma of removing hundreds of seeds from boiling citrus flesh and the subsequent eternity waiting for the elusive so-called ‘setting point’.
I’m not even sure I’ve been present for the reveal moment of any setting point, having most likely unceremoniously abandoned whatever ambitious jam/curd project I’ve previously started leaving Cal to salvage what remained.
Thus, in the spirit of discovery, I boldly go where many have gone before me. Google does a great job of directing me to trusty 100 Mile Table’s mandarin marmalade recipe and I decide that given there are only four ingredients I am up to the task.
I run into an immediate problem at ‘lemon juice’: no juicer. But today I am feeling mighty clever indeed so I turn over a glass so the small end is pointing up and stick it in a bowl. I congratulate myself on my ingenuity and proceed to juice the four lemons required on the end of the glass. I’m so proud of myself I text a photo to the chef at large. No response. I carry on.
I boil the whole mandarins in water and the lemon juice which is admittedly a really fun easy exercise until you come to the bit where you have to fish them out and remove all the pips. The recipe politely warns this is “not a completely painful exercise but it does take a little patience” and I would politely retort that it is in fact completely painful and required more patience than I possess (I confirmed fact this later when sneaky pips started appearing as I stirred).
After pureeing the fruit and returning to the saucepan with the sugar, there is a rather large amount of time spent stirring and an equally large amount of time spent spooning out a little dollop and seeing if it is doing what it’s meant to do, i.e. being marmalade. I try to outsmart it by putting it in the fridge and seeing if it sets but it’s not falling for my trickery.
Things continue like this for a while. I hang out some washing. I reluctantly pour in more sugar. Eventually I make an executive decision and decide it’s done. I remove from the stove and pour the boiling liquid partially into sterilised jars and mainly over most kitchen surfaces, the floor and my dressing gown.
Now that I can photograph my jars of golden goodness in a variety of settings and muted lighting I must admit I am feeling smugly satisfied. Next stop: gluten-free bread, but that’s for another day.