By Angela Denstad Stigeler
When the holiday season is behind us and we’re faced with a fresh and frigid new year, one of the nicest consolations is knowing that citrus season is in full swing. These bright yellow and orange orbs light up our long winter days and provide a much needed boost of nutrients, bright flavor and good cheer. They can also provide a simple winter canning project on one of those days when thin sunlight fails to warm and you’d rather enjoy the heat of the kitchen.
Here we turn to the citrus family’s darling — the clementine. A hybrid between a mandarin and a sweet orange, these little cuties are perfect for preserving. A simple caramel deepens and sweetens their flavor, allowing you to put them away for a rainy day, or for a snow day, as it were. Serve them aside any sort of dessert, from ice cream to chocolate cake. They’re particularly nice with any cream cheese based desserts or with a simple dish of plain yogurt. The syrup can be spooned over to moisten or glaze just about anything as well, lending a fragrant caramel sweetness. Even the look of these bright spheres in their jars is enough to brighten any disposition.
Clementines in Caramel
Ingredients per quart*
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cold water
1 ½ cups warm water
½ a vanilla bean (optional)
1 quart (about a dozen) small clementine oranges
Prepare a water bath canner by filling half full of water and bringing it to the boil. Sterilize jars, bands and lids for as many jars as you plan to prepare.
Peel the clementines and scrape off all the white pith with the side of a paring knife. Pack them into the clean jars as compactly as possible without crushing any of the fruit. Meanwhile, pour the sugar into a large saucepan, then add the cold water. Stir carefully to dissolve the sugar without splashing any sugar onto the sides of the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts and turns into a rich amber caramel (hard crack stage), about 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end of the cooking as it can burn easily toward the end. Add the warm water quickly but carefully, as the mixture will bubble up. When the bubbling subsides, add the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean and the pod, if using, and stir to dissolve the caramel. Bring the syrup up to a boil and carefully pour it into the jars to cover the fruit. Wipe the rims of the jars, place the flats on them and screw on the bands.
Carefully lower the jars into the water bath canner and return the water to a boil. Process the jars for 10 minutes, then leave in a draft-free place at room temperature for 24 hours. Check the lids for proper sealing before storing. Refrigerate any unsealed jars.
*When making larger batches be sure to increase the size of the saucepan when making the caramel; the cooking time may need to be adjusted. Alternatively, make the caramel in separate batches.