When the first shipment of clementines arrives in supermarkets each winter, it’s cause for celebration. By then we’ve eaten our fill of apples and pears and we’re craving something different. Something really juicy and bright. Cuties to the rescue!
Cuties are a brand-name for clementines, a variety of mandarin
orange that’s small, easy to peel, and (depending on where it’s grown) seedless. (In case you’re wondering, satsumas are similar but
technically a different variety.) They come packed by the dozen in net bags. Just grab one and you’ve got enough fresh fruit for the entire week.
But here’s the catch, those net bags always have a few dried out and
flavorless duds that are imperceptible from the rest. And getting a dud can put you off clementines for a good long while. You look at the stragglers in your fruit bowl and think, “I don’t know … I just can’t trust ’em.”
You have three choices: Toss them and wallow in guilt for being
wasteful. Let them sit until they get good and green and fuzzy and then wallow in guilt for being wasteful. Or cook them … because once you heat them and add a little liquid, they’re back to their flavor-bomb selves.
It’s true. You can salvage sad clementines by cooking them, and their minimal pith and easy-off peel make it easy to do. One of our favorite, no-fuss ways to use them up is in a simple marmalade.
Making marmalade is usually a pain. You have to peel the fruit, carve away the pith, remove the seeds, finely slice the peel, tie the pith and seeds in a little bag — all before you even light the stove. No so with clementines. They have little to no seeds and hardly any pith, which means you can just slice the whole thing like a tomato, dump it in the pot and get cooking.
Another bonus: Clementines’ natural sweetness results in marmalade that’s less bitter, more fruity and therefore more versatile and crowd-pleasing than traditional varieties. People who normally turn their nose up at marmalade love it (even kids), and you can use it beyond toast. Add a dollop to simple cakes, ice cream, yogurt, panna cotta. You can even use it to glaze chicken.
But, if you ask us, the swooniest way to use it is to add a dollop to toasted brioche slathered in Nutella. You will moan. Your knees will buckle. And you will reach for more. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Makes 1 quart
This makes a small batch, which means you can just pop it in the fridge and skip canning it. Even better, fill a couple half-pint jars for your lucky neighbors and keep two for yourself. Or course, if you’re itching to dust off your water-bath canner, just process the marmalade in sterilized jars for 10 minutes.
1½ pounds clementines
4 to 6 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup bourbon, scotch or brandy (optional)
Scrub the clementines under cold water. Slice each in half and if you find seeds, remove them. Slice each half into thin slivers, then slice the slivers in half crosswise.
Transfer fruit to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add 4 cups of the water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until peels are very tender, about 45 minutes. Check the water level periodically and add more if necessary to ensure the fruit stays immersed.
When peels are tender, stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally and skimming off foam, until mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and spirits, if using. Transfer to a quart-size canning jar or 4 half-pint canning jars. When cool, screw on the lids and refrigerate.