When life gives you mandarins…

… make mandarincello 🙂

This is not normally something I’d have considered, but I was doing a bit of gentle fruit-one-upmanship on FaceTime with my brother in the UK, who has a substantial temperate fruit and nut orchard, but no tropical fruit. As well as eating them fresh and freezing juice and pulp, we were debating what best to do with the beautiful fruit on my Ponkan mandarin tree. He suggested the mandarin equivalent of limoncello. Bingo! A double reward, the fruit and the skins!

I went to our local bottle-o (off-licence or liquor store for non-Aussies) and asked for the cheapest, nastiest bottle of vodka they had. (Classically, it should be grappa, but that sort of thing is hard to find in rural north Queensland unless you make your own.) After he’d cracked up a little, the bloke behind the counter wanted to know why. Explanations followed, and I could see he was thinking about doing it himself. Spread the joy….

Anyway, one 750cl bottle of vodka later I selected 5 of the largest, most brilliant orange fruit and peeled them carefully. I took a small, sharp knife and scraped as much of the white pith from the back of the peels without pressing too hard as I didn’t want to lose any of the essential oil. The skins went into a large (possibly too large!) spring-top jar, and the vodka went on top. Into a cool, dark place for at least a week.

I couldn’t resist taking a peek yesterday. Look! The vodka is changing colour already as the essential oils in the skin migrate into the spirit. After a week, the colour will be a brilliant orange and the flavour will be intense, but possibly somewhat bitter. I’ll make a simple sugar syrup with white sugar (I don’t want to use brown as it’ll affect the lovely colour) and add as much as the flavour demands. I don’t want sweet, I just want the edge taken off any bitterness to mellow the flavour. And then into a smaller container with a screw top for storage. Possibly the original cheap and nasty bottle, which is quite a pleasing shape.

And in case you were wondering what I did with the fruit originally enclosed by those peels, I roasted them in the oven with a little water and a sprinkling of sugar. They have softened into a delicious tart and tangy sludge which goes beautifully with Greek yoghurt.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress.


28 thoughts on “When life gives you mandarins…

  1. Emmely says:

    I can’t stand the taste of alcohol so I’ll leave the mandarincello to you but that yoghurt topping sounds delicious! Do you cut up the fruit before roasting it and for how long do you leave it in the oven?

    • katechiconi says:

      I just separated the segments of the 5 peeled large mandarins and made sure there were no stringy bits or pips left. I layered them in a glass baking dish with a lid, sprinkled over a tablespoon of brown sugar and about 100ml water, put on the lid and put it in the oven with something else I was cooking. When I could smell something like marmalade (about 1 hour on medium, but it’ll depend on your oven and temperature), I took them out, let them cool and put the soft, wrinkly fruit and the flavoured syrup into a jar in the fridge. There’s a delicious bitter caramel flavour behind the sweetness of the fruit. Yum!

  2. tialys says:

    Ooh, sounds lovely. Vodka is the only spirit I like although I only tend to drink wine now (with the occasional beer) so this would appeal to me. I remember over indulging in Grappa in Italy once, years ago – it was not a pretty sight.
    If this turns out well, will you have it as an apéritif or dilute it with something to make a less alcoholic long drink?

    • katechiconi says:

      I think it would be nice over ice with a dash of soda, it would make a delicious LLB, but equally, neat and chilled to sip slowly would be nice. But let’s not count the chickens before they’re hatched. It might not work (unlikely…).

  3. nanacathy2 says:

    My mouth is watering. Clever brother.

  4. craftycreeky says:

    Ooh, sounds nice! I made limoncello last year, I usually make damson gin and rhubarb gin but I like them pretty sweet 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Damsons and rhubarb can be quite tart, so sugar would be needed, but it’s possible this may be less so. I will have to let you know when I get to the point of adding the sugar syrup. Did you get the ‘ouzo’ effect with your limoncello, or did it remain clear?

  5. KerryCan says:

    You mentioned, in a reply to my comment on your mandarins, that you might make mandarincello but I didn’t really expect you to follow through so promptly! It seems a perfect idea–I hope the outcome is as good as it sounds.

  6. Conor Bofin says:

    Lovely stuff Kate. Where in the UK is your sibling? I am assuming somewhere south.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, he’s in Somerset, in sight of Glastonbury Tor. He has about 7 acres, and has a couple of them planted with all kinds of fruit and nut trees, but the climate is too cold in the winter for anything really exotic.

  7. Chris S in Canada says:

    Oh heck, if that stuff tastes as good as it looks, you will have a lovely liqueur to do all sorts of wonderful things with. Don’t think I’ll try it here as the mandarins wouldn’t be as good or as cost effective.

    I don’t make rhubarb gin as craftycreeky does, but I do freeze rhubarb and then I make a lovely little punch to which I add gin. Delightful – especially on the long hot days of summer with lots of ice.

    Definitely worth a post, can’t wait to hear the results of the taste test.
    Chris S in Canada

    • katechiconi says:

      I bet your rhubarb is better than ours, which has to be brought north from more temperate areas! I love stewed rhubarb and Greek yoghurt on muesli for breakfast, but without the alcohol 😉

  8. atkokosplace says:

    I never thought to roast mandarins! I need to try this! Thank you for inspiring this! 🙂

  9. Yesterday when I was helping myself a small arrangement of camellias from my neighbour’s garden I encountered her and her mum gathering a box of mandarins from the adjacent tree, I passed on your suggestion and recipe. Cheap vodka is a handy thing, I use itmedicinally, for tinctures and perfume but keep the good stuff for an occasional tipple.

    • katechiconi says:

      I think a small shot of mandarincello added to an orange gelato mix would be great, or added to a chocolate cake, or soaked into a bread and butter pudding made with marmalade… I could go on! I’m not keen on vodka unflavoured, but it makes a good base.

  10. Please do keep us updated on the progress. This might be the thing for out mandarin gluts, which happen every few years!

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