Q: I was looking for a basic recipe to make marmalade with all my tangerines this year. But either they use extra pectin or they’re mixed with lemons or some other fruit. Do you have a recipe, and why can’t I find a plain tangerine marmalade recipe?
Answer: Sorry, but no, I don’t have a recipe that only uses tangerines. And if you tried to make marmalade with just tangerines you probably would make a lot of ice cream topping or pancake syrup, but not marmalade.
The reason is that tangerines, unlike many other citrus fruits, have very little natural pectin. You can make orange, sour orange, lemon, grapefruit or calamondin marmalade with just fruit, sugar and water. All of those citrus fruits have enough of their own pectin in the rinds or peels to gel the juice. Tangerines don’t. So either you have to add a lemon for its pectin or you add some commercial pectin.
Commercial pectins are extracted from citrus after it’s been squeezed for juice or from the pulp that is left after apples are squeezed for juice. If you decide to try one of the recipes you found, choose one that cooks the peel and leaves it sit for several hours. That first boiling and soaking will extract pectin from the peels, and it will reduce the amount of floating in the marmalade.
Some recipes just grind the fruit and cook it directly with added pectin. That will gel, but the peel will still have air inside it, so it will rise to the tops of the jars. And to make it easier to thinly slice the fruit, freeze it first. It’s easier to slice when they’re firm and icy, and the juice doesn’t squirt all over the kitchen.
Q: Sometimes when I make flan, it seems that a whole lot of juice leaks out when I leave it in the refrigerator for more than a day, and other times not nearly as much leaks out. What makes the difference? I use the same ingredients every time.
Answer: I suspect that, while the ingredients were the same, what changed is how long each stayed in the oven. It’s not that one is seriously overcooked and the other is not, but we do get distracted. And it can be hard to judge when they’re done.
Flan has lots of protein from egg and milk. As they are heated, those proteins gradually start to first stick together then tighten up. It’s like a hand or a fist. At first the proteins are like an open hand, fingers spread wide. As they heat up, they stick to each other like fingers touching. As the heat keeps going up, the fingers start to clench. We want them to stick to each other; that’s what firms the flan. But if they get too hot and start clenching, the juices (the water from the milk and egg) will get squeezed out. You can’t hold water in a fist. As the proteins shorten and tighten, there is less room between them to hold the liquids.
If a flan or custard is seriously overcooked, it will be tough, with lots of liquid lost or evaporated, and the proteins will be very tightly tied together. To judge when a custard or flan is done, the clean knife test is fairly simple. It might not look done yet, the center might still seem too soft, but if you can slide a cool table knife into the middle and pull it out cleanly, it’s done. If the proteins are stuck together enough that they’re not sticking to the knife, it’s done. It will firm up as it finishes cooking while it cools.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at [email protected]