It's citrus season, and Dried Mandarins feature in this edition of the May IMK. Where did April go? And now that it's May, the weather here in the Tropics of North Queensland is cooling down so we are spending a lot more time in the garden preparing the garden beds for Winter planting, and also it is really a pleasure now to be preparing delicious food in the kitchen.
A lot of the activity in my kitchen this last month and in Mr. HRK's workshop, has been centred around the mandarin fruit. The branches of our mandarin tree in the front garden have been sagging to the ground with the weight of the mandarins it is producing. Even though they hadn't ripened, and are only just starting to ripen now, we needed to pick some of those mandarins to ease the load off the tree, and then find a way to use them, as well as give a lot to friends. We also needed to find a way to preserve them. Did you know that even though the skin of the mandarin fruit is still green, the fruit can be ripe enough to eat, and in fact be very juicy and delicious? It takes a cold snap in the weather, which we are really still waiting for, for the skins to change colour. We also don't have a clue what variety of ,mandarin this tree is.
When my Mum passed away on the 13th May, 13 years ago, just after Mother's Day, my Aunty Mary, my Mum's stepsister, gave me a mandarin tree to plant in memory of Mum, a lovely and very thoughtful idea. That was in 2008, so the mandarin tree is 13 years old, and this is the best crop it has yielded. This is all very special to me as my Mum would have been 100 years old this year. During those 13 years due to the tree's lack of interest in producing fruit, Mr. HRK has threatened it, cajoled it, fed it, watered it, but not hugged it, however something has worked because this year it has excelled itself, just when seriously it was under threat of being faced with it's demise. Because of it's sentimental value to me, of course I have protected it, or it might have met it's sad end a few years ago, but it just shows that trees have feelings and after 13 years it is coming into its own, a late bloomer. Sadly Aunty Mary is also no longer with us either, but I will let my cousins know this story. We never found out what the variety of this mandarin is. But it is a large fruit, thin skinned, with very few seeds and very sweet. If you have any clues as to what it is I would love to hear from you. Anyway it has adapted to living in the tropics, like all of us.
|These are the fruit just starting to colour up. There are a few green ant nests in the tree as well just for added value.|
This is the mighty mandarin tree in our front yard surrounded by some tropical colour; Coleus, Ixora, a Desert Rose, purple ground Orchids, Geraniums and the large leafed exotic Caladium with a pink heart. Around the base of the tree is well cleared though as it needs to be.
And bucket loads to give away.
However when we started thinking about how to preserve some of them, Mr. HRK was very keen to experiment with dehydrating them. So the dehydrator moved into his workshop to work away quietly during the night, and off we started. Well the good news is that they are delicious dehydrated, and will keep bottled and well sealed in a cool place for 12 months. For the first batch we tried, we left the skins on the fruit when we sliced them up, however because the skin was still green, the fruit tasted quite tart when dried. However if you can dry them with the golden skin still on the fruit they will look very pretty, even prettier than mine:) I hope that enough fruit will survive the bugs and not become stung by fruit fly before they ripen enough to pick them, so we can dry some more with the skin on. That was another reason why we were fearful about leaving the fruit on for too long, as the fruit fly wreak havoc on citrus in our part of the world. We try to spray with eco friendly sprays and hang bottles of various concoctions from the tree guaranteed to repel the bugs but some fruit still gets stung.
This was our second batch where Mr. HRK removed the skins, and sliced the mandarins as finely as he could, and then dried them in our dehydrator overnight.
Then I decided to sprinkle a spice rub over the next batch before drying for some extra flavour, which took them to another level, and this photo below is the result. We have taste tested them on friends, and I recommend this method to you for oranges and mandarins. Bottle them up, label them, enjoy them at home, and they will also be delicious edibles to give as gifts. I still need to print off some labels, but they look really nice bottled in jars.
We are now sprinkling the mandarins over our cereal in the morning as well. We also dried some pineapple slices which is more popular and commercially available for sale than the mandarin, and we think it's delicious as well, and great for a snack if you are travelling.
SPICE RUB FOR DRIED MANDARINS
4 large mandarins or oranges thinly sliced
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
large pinch of sea salt
Fruit can be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator or even in the sun. Using the dehydrator is an easy way to do it as it can work overnight, and if not quite dry enough in the morning, then adjusted by the hour until the fruit is just right.
Wash and dry your fruit, then cut them into very thin slices, (as thin as possible)
Mix the spices and the sugar in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the mandarins or oranges
Layer them on dehydrator trays, or if you want to use your oven, dry them on trays lined with baking paper at 200 deg. F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They may take longer.
We were using two dehydrators by this stage.
When dried, they can be stored in ziplock bags, or in bottles. Store them in a cool, dry place and they should store well for 12 months. In my neck of the woods, the humidity can cause problems, so they need to be packaged as soon as possible.
Dried mandarin or orange slices can also be added to decorate a cocktail, a fruit shrub, or any drink really. There are endless possibilities to how they can be used, only limited by our imagination. The flavour is really developed by the drying process.
The other day, whilst I was cooking a chook with stuffing in the oven for lunch, I made a Banana Sultana cake and to save time and electricity, I baked it in the oven with the chook. The cake was delicious, so was the chook by the way. I used some dried mandarin to decorate the top of the cake before baking. The dried fruit browned off a little too much for my taste when it was cooked, however it didn't take away from the overall success of the cake at all. This cake was just so delicious straight out of the oven that I will definitely be baking it again. I can't see any reason not to add both walnuts and sultanas if I have the ingredients on hand. This is a photo of my cake before it went into the oven.
Here is the recipe, which just happened to be on the back of a Sunbeam sultanas packet. I think the sugar content could be halved if you are watching calories, and this would still be to your taste.
Banana Sultana Loaf
70 g butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sultanas
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.
Grease and line the base of a loaf tin, mine measured 22 cm x 12 cm and was perfect
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, add the beaten egg, and then add in the bananas one at a time
Add the flour, sultanas and the milk and stir by hand to combine
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. AT the end of the cooking time, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean it is cooked.
Cool in the tin and then slice to serve while it is still warm and enjoy.
When I was growing up and still living in my family home, I remember that this kind of cake was often served warm and with butter spread on it, gosh we were naughty back then weren't we, but it was so very good.
If you read my blog regularly, you will already know that I play Mahjong once a week, and as well as having the fun of playing Mahjong with friends, we also enjoy some delicious cake at each others homes. This week was my turn to host Mahjong, and I made my Ginger Syrup cake, which is a recipe I really enjoy making, and this time I decorated it with a slice of the dried mandarin. The ladies really enjoyed it. The cake recipe is now being distributed to all the Mahjongers. You can find it at this link. The flavours of the spice rub and the intense ginger flavour of the cake complimented each other perfectly, all enhanced by the wonderful espresso coffee made by our barista for the afternoon, Mr. HRK.
Well that's it from me for this edition of In My Kitchen. This is part of the IMK event hosted globally by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings, where lots of bloggers participate to showcase the highlights of what they have been doing in their kitchens for the month.
Take care, and thanks for dropping by,