Just in time for Christmas — even though it’s not correlated to the holiday at all and was not given as gifts (sorry friends and family) — I finished up canning a half bushel of mandarin oranges shipped fresh from California. I can’t believe that this was my last canning project of the year! It seems like the year has flown by at lightning speed. I guess that’s what happens when you are busy busy busy. In addition to starting a new job, I also…
prepared for winter, even though el nino has us in above average temps for the time being. (It will be cold again, I assure you.)
made (and ate too many) honey nut clusters.
And the list goes on!
The year had its ups and downs, as all years do, but all in all it was a good year with too many blessings big and small to possibly count them all. And although I know 2016 will have its challenges as well, I’m excited about all the big plans and dreams I have for it, too.
For example, my goats will start kidding in February…and I’m already excited and nervous. Less than two months and we’ll have baby goats again! Perhaps no other event is as exciting and nerve wracking as kidding season.
I also have an announcement to make pretty soon, but…you’re just going to have to wait on that a wee bit longer.
One thing is fairly certain: I won’t get scurvy any time soon. Thank you, you beautiful orange beauties!
I don’t want to simply reminisce and dream today, I want to share with you the splendor that is home canned mandarin oranges.
First of all, I have no idea why I have never made these before. It’s so stinking easy. Seriously, I know I said applesauce and peach butter are easy — and they are — but this is EASIER. To date, this is the easiest canning recipe I have done.
It’s also healthier than the mandarin oranges in the little cans or plastic cups at the grocery store. I put these babies away fresh off the truck (literally) and with no added sugar. Most of the canned oranges at the store are put up in syrup, which can contain either sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, or some mix. Why? Because we tend to think everything needs sugar. And by “we” I mean the people who market this stuff to us to get our money. Doing it this way, I can add a little sweetness in whatever form I choose, if I need to — pure cane sugar, coconut sugar, honey, what have you — or can eat them without it if they prove sweet enough.
But back to an earlier point: money. We all know that putting away our own food is frugal, but I decided to actually crunch the numbers on this one.
Cost Break Down:
1/2 Bushel California mandarin oranges: $42 and some change — I’ll be rounding here to make things simple.
Water: yeah, I will not be calculating the price of tap water by the half pint. Sorry. Moving on…
Half pint jars: roughly $15 for 12, depending on where you buy them, making them about $1.25/jar. But! We’re going to reuse these babies many times. So, if we estimate that we will get 15 uses out of each jar, that brings the cost down to $.08 per jar for this usage. Fifteen is actually a conservative number. We still have some canning jars my grandmother used before I was even around, and we use these for kinds of things — not just canning.
A half bushel provides about enough for 4 batches of twelve, give or take depending on the size and how many are pilfered fresh before putting them up, so the total cost of jars for one half bushel of mandarins is roughly $3.84. I actually only made 36 jars for us, but that is because I withheld around two dozen for fresh eating for my family and my grandparents.
I won’t include other miscellaneous tools use for canning, since those are used so many times it would be too infinitesimal a price to fool with adding up. And of course, I labor for free when doing such things for myself. 😉
Total Cost: roughly $45.84 for 48 jars or $.95 per half pint
I imagine the price would be a little less if using bigger, and therefore fewer, jars, but I wanted these in single serving sizes just the like the ones at the store. Grab n’ go, baby, grab n’ go.
But how does that compare to mandarin oranges at the store?
A pack of 4, 4 ounce plastic cups is $2.42 at Walmart, which breaks down to $.61 a cup. Since the 4 oz fruit cup is only half the size of a half pint, we need to double that to accurately compare: 8 ounces of mandarin oranges at Walmart is $1.22. This may vary depending on where you buy, in what quantities, and whether or not you have coupons, but I think roughly a dollar or so per 8 oz would be a fair estimation.
Bottom Line: The price is comparable or better, depending on your local prices.
In addition, the ingredients list — rather than being mandarin oranges and water — is fruit, fruit juice from concentrate, ascorbic acid, and citric acid. I should also probably mention that there’s a possibility the oranges from the store may not come from California like mine did, and some brands may also contain other ingredients as well.
Personally, the added benefits of knowing where my oranges came from, knowing what went in the jars, and enjoying the time making them definitely makes these worthwhile, cost aside.
If you’d like to see a visual demonstration of this project, check it out here on my YouTube channel!
Here’s the Recipe
Canned Mandarin Oranges
– bowls, one for oranges and one for peels
– a large pot for boiling water
– fresh mandarin oranges, roughly 1.5-2.5 per half pint depending on size. 1/2 bushel provides enough for approximately 48 half pints.
First comes the only tedious part — peeling and pithing the oranges. Luckily mandarins are a million times easier to peel that navel oranges and they have very little pith to begin with, but it still gets a little tiresome picking the whites off with sticky fingers.
Many hands makes quick work; like all preserving, this is most fun and most easy when done with others! Don’t you just love how food can bring us together and serve as a meeting place? Imagine the parties that once were had around harvest, like the maple syrup party in Little House in the Big Woods…what fun it must have been.
After the pretties are pithed and peeled, it’s time to separate them into slices. This is how I did the majority of ours, but I did do a few where I plunked whole oranges (peeled and pithed, but not separated) into the jars. I just thought it was pretty that way. And also a little faster. Only smaller oranges will fit this way, however.
Next we ladle boiling water over the orange slices, leaving a generous half inch of head space, and poke them down with the air bubble releaser that comes with the Ball waterbath canning supplies kit. This helps settle the oranges and remove trapped air.
Now all that is left is to put the lids onto the jars and process them in the waterbath canner.
Simply follow basic water bathing principles. As always, I will direct you to the Ball Canning Book and the National Center for Home Food Preservation for detailed waterbath canning guides. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of food safety when it comes to preserving, so I always point folks to the experts when it comes to general canning practices.
For my altitude, we processed the half pint jars in a waterbath for 10 minutes.
So pretty, aren’t they?