So I began to wonder - How do commercial operations can mandarin oranges? How do they get them so clean, and remove all the membranes and white stuff? What I discovered is that an enzyme or lye solution is used to digest the pith from the segments prior to canning! I ordered a bag of pectic enzyme, and set about planning how I could extend my enjoyment of these delightful fruits.
First off, to say that this process wasn’t labor-intensive would be lying, but it was still way less work than making marmalade. It took me approximately 2-2.5 hours just to peel all the fruit. Commercial operations scaled the fruit to make peeling easier, but I didn’t. Dancys peel pretty easy, there was just hundreds of them to work through. Then I soaked batches of segments in the enzyme solution (1 Tbs pectic enzyme to 1 gal water) for about 3 hours each. It was amazing how well the enzyme did it’s magic, the white pith just slipped right off, leaving beautiful clean segments! I packed the segments into jars, and then filled with a boiling very light sugar syrup, leaving 0.5 inches of head space.
I didn’t want to use syrup at first, but since I couldn’t can them in their own juice (due to volatile sulfur compounds in citrus juice), I decided syrup was the best option. I used a very light receipe of 0.75 cups sugar to 6.25 cups water, which is supposed to approximate the sugar concentration in the fruit itself. Regardless, it’s still much less sugar than marmalade. Once sealed, I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
I’m thrilled with the results, and very happy that I was able to preserve so much fruit that might otherwise have gone to waste. All told I canned a little less than five gallons of tangerines, which I’m looking forward to enjoying until loquat season starts! I will definitely be trying this next year with other fruits.