Preserving Food

Spiced Mandarins in Brandy
Make a couple of months ahead of when you might want to eat them as they need time to mature.

Ingredients: 12 - 14 mandarin oranges, 350g sugar, 300ml water, 250 ml brandy - 2 x preserving jars with two part screw top lids or Kilner type seals.

Method: Remove some zest from some other oranges (I used oranges bought for juicing - I personally do not like zest from mandarin peel).

Cut the peel off the oranges, don't peel it.  I know that mandarins peel really easily but they leave a lot of white pith behind that is hard to remove and you really want to expose the juice cells of the orange segments so that they will absorb the syrup.  Simmer the zest in a small pan of water for about a minute and then drain and keep aside.

You can see the peeled mandarin on the right.
Heat the sugar and water together stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for a couple of minutes.  Next add the oranges and bring back to a simmer.  Continue to simmer the oranges making sure they are turned carefully in the syrup for about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat.

Prepare the jars by washing carefully in soapy water.  Rinse in boiling water and then place them in a medium oven until totally dry.  Place the lids or the rubber seals (depending upon which type of jar you use) into a small bowl of boiling water.

Spoon the oranges into the warm jars.

Return the syrup to the boil and let it reduces slightly - another five minutes should do it.  Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then add the brandy.

Pop a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves into each jar along with some of the orange zest and then top up with the brandy syrup.  Close the jars, fitting the appropriate seals.  Place the sealed jars into a water bath - basically a large pan of water with a trivet or upside down saucer in the bottom.  Make sure that the jar is totally submerged, there should be about an inch of water above the lid.  Bring it to a gentle boil.  Set the timer for ten minutes once the water is gently bubbling.

With such a small batch - I only got two full jars from this - you can process the jars individually in a large stock pot.  If you were making a much larger batch then you need a large pasteuriser or something similar to an old fashioned tea urn.

Remove the jars and place on a wooden board or a wad of folded newspapers.  Leave until totally cold.  Once cold check that the jars have sealed.  With Kilner jars you release the metal and if the lid pops off then it has not sealed - either re process in the water bath or pop it in the fridge and use it up over the course of a week or two.  The lids should stay firmly closed once you release the metal bit.  Screw top Mason type jars can have their screw band taken off and the sealed lid should not move.  Store in a cool dark cupboard for at least 2 months before using.  By this time the oranges will have taken on the brandy syrup and will make a wonderfully boozy dessert.  You can cut them into segments and layer them with meringue and cream or ice cream and drizzle with the syrup or just eat them with Christmas pudding, or what about making a trifle with them... yum!

Opening Mason or Kilner Jars:  In order to release the Mason type sealed lid you simply pierce a hole in the top and it will come off easily.  For releasing the seals on Kilner jars... this is much more interesting.  Sometimes a good tug will release the lid but sometimes its almost impossible to shift it.  The rubber seal should have a small tongue protruding from between the glass of the jar and the lid.  Grip this tongue with a small pair of pliers and twist it or pull it until you hear the air sucking into the jar and the lid will release.  Ta da!

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