Monday, February 01, 2010

Sustenance Through Winter: Clementines Confites

Twelve years ago, when being in love had just set in, everything at the time seemed to have taken on a more colorful rich hue. Perhaps it was the rain in Paris where we were both studying or the vibrant colors of the south that emerged when at around this time of year we went to see his parents for a visit. The trip had been a success, and we were getting ready to return to Paris. I decided to prepare the picnic lunch for the train.

Brigitte, my future mother-in-law, told me that there were some clementines confites in the kitchen, that I should take some since Loic loved them. I got the impression that even though she said "take some", that she meant "take them all". I don't really know how it happened.

There we were on the train. I brought out all of the delicious things I had gathered. We'd enjoyed brined olives as only they can do them in Provence, country pâté on crusty bread, a kind of slaw I made with things I found around Brigitte's kitchen, chunks of sheep's cheese I'd found at a market there, and then, finally, I brought out two of the clementines.

Oh my, they were rich and sweet beyond my wildest imagination. I was lost in the haze of sweet love for them, and for Loic. I asked him if he would like another, and he said yes. We ate the second two staring deeply into each other's eyes. He stopped eating them after that. But I had to have a third. You could suck the juice right out of their centers, where their pulp had completely turned to a fabulously intense thick clementine flavored goo, sectioned vaguely into cells... absolute divinity. It was like admiring a master's work and then remembering that indeed these were natural fruits, taking you that much closer to the great master himself. Definitely a glimpse of the divine. I think I ate a few more but I can't tell you how many.

I came back from my clementine haze feeling slightly ill and found that he was staring at me. I had brought out the box. "Did you take them all?" he asked. "But of course!" I retorted... "She said you liked them!" But my face turned bright red. He looked annoyed, maybe even a little angry. He'd never been angry with me before.

I had stepped over an invisible line. My lover was going to scorn me for gourmandise.

We spent some time silently riding next to each other on the train. I bounced between shame and defensiveness, which eventually just melted to sadness. The rain was streaming down the window of the train. I actually quietly began to cry. What was Brigitte going to think? How were they going to take this? The culture was new to me so I could not fathom the damage I might have done. Would I be able to face his parents again? A tear ran down my cheek while I gazed out onto the gloomy countryside.

The shock of that uncomfortable ride in the train in which I thought I was going to lose my lover, coupled with the intensity of my first brush with clementines confites had me sworn off them for several years. I just kind of felt sad every time I had one.

He forgave me, and so did Brigitte. There was really no need to worry. I explained to her that I just wanted to please him (I did not mention my own enthusiasm, but I suspect Loic passed the word). Now, after 10 years of marriage to Loic, every year, Brigitte still gives me a big jar of clementines confites every winter. Since she gives them to me, now Loic must ask me if he wants one.

Choose a pound of firm, ripe clementines, in season this time of year.  Scrub them clean, and pierce them deeply with a thin needle, everywhere.  Put them into a saucepan, and cover the pierced fruits by 2 cms (an inch) with water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the fruit with a pair of tongs or slotted spoon to a deep sided non-reactive bowl or a jar.  Add 500 grams sugar, and 200 grams glucose syrup or honey (which will alter the flavor somewhat but still achieve the goal of avoiding the sugar going grainy) to the cooking juice.  Bring the syrup to a boil and remove from heat promptly when it reaches a good rolling boil.  Pour the syrup over the clementines, weigh the top down with a plate to avoid the fruits from floating to the top, and let it sit loosely covered with a clean dishcloth for 2 days.  After 2 days have passed, remove the fruit from the bowl, transfer the juice to a saucepan, and add 100 grams of sugar to the juice.  Bring the juice and sugar to a rolling boil, remove from heat, then pour over the clementines and let sit for another 2 days.  Follow this process every 2 days, every 2 days adding 100 grams of sugar to the mix, until you reach the 14th day.  At this time, transfer them to a jar, and keep, covered in their syrup, in a cool dry place.  They will keep for as long as a year, getting better with age, but at 2 weeks they're still pretty darn good.



Blogger Hungry Rabbit said...

Does it sit on the counter throughout the process or it needs to be refrigerated?

6:10 PM, February 01, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

You can leave them out. I usually just let them sit on my buffet. Though in winter, it's not too hot outside. Find a cool place.

6:11 PM, February 01, 2010  
Anonymous Tracy (Amuse-bouche for Two) said...

So sad and sweet at the same time.

7:14 PM, February 01, 2010  
Anonymous il sapore del verde said...

Your story is nice and your blog is nice too. In Italy clementines is very good end I eat clementines in winter some time that I would like this fruits... It's good, simply good!
By. Deborah

8:45 PM, February 01, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful story. For me; it's the memories evoked with the smell, taste, or touch of a particular food that ultimately determines my appetite and the gusto with which I partake.
May I ask two questions (please excuse my ignorance)? (1) I don't want to make any assumptions, but when you state "scrub them clean"; the clementines without the outer peel? (2) I believe that the link to your "spice mix maison" is not functional. I understand the premise, but could you please tell me the typical ingredients or ones you use most often in your mix? Thank you!

10:41 PM, February 01, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

When I say "scrub them clean", I mean to wash the whole fruit with the skin and all, and to to use the fruit whole, with skin.

I've checked on the spice mix link and fixed it. You're so kind to point it out. It should work now.

10:54 PM, February 01, 2010  
Anonymous Dillon said...

Ahh the perils of being a food lover.
I have a tree heavy with chinotto fruit. I wonder if they would be too bitter to confit.

1:13 AM, February 02, 2010  
Blogger Amanda said...

I happen to have a box of clementines sitting in my fridge. I will definitely be giving this a try. Thank you!

Also, your blog is wonderful. :)

3:47 AM, February 02, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dillon, you should try it! If they're too bitter to eat straight, you could use it as a component in something.

Thanks Amaranthian. Please check back when they're done!

9:19 AM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous Moni M said...

Hi Lucy, what a treat to read your blog. We are a young Canadian family in Provence for 6 months and have tried our best to capture the experience in our very amateur blogs, but after reading yours I'm not sure I want to revisit mine!! Love all your photos too,
ps did you use a blogspot template or did you customize it?

4:04 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous Moni M said...

Hi Lucy, what a treat to read your blog. We are a young Canadian family in Provence for 6 months and have tried our best to capture the experience in our very amateur blogs, but after reading yours I'm not sure I want to revisit mine!! Love all your photos too,
ps did you use a blogspot template or did you customize it?

4:07 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous M. Ángeles said...

A beautiful story for a wonderful recipe. Be sure I'll try them, whether they take 14 days or not (or 40...). I like this slow and susrprising transmutations (like marrón glacé).

4:11 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous Smitonius said...

Such a moving story... I can imagine not being able to eat them for a while.

5:17 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous nina(sussexnotebook) said...

What a beautiful and powerful love story...I am glad it had a happy ending and you are both still together to tell the tale!

10:09 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post! Please explain a little more how to eat these. It sounds like you were eating them just from your hand, not on toast or crackers or anything. It also sounded like you sucked the insides from them but can you also eat the peel?

10:12 PM, February 02, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

The whole fruit is transformed through this process into one big lovely delicious sphere of goodness to be eaten whole like a candy.

10:29 PM, February 02, 2010  
Anonymous Dinners and Dreams said...

Hi Lucy, I love your idea of preserving clementines. I love them so much and would be happy to keep past the season.


3:01 AM, February 03, 2010  
Blogger sharon parquette nimtz said...

Really lovely story. Thank you.

4:39 PM, February 03, 2010  
Anonymous Gosia said...

Hi Lucy, this is a wonderful story. The happy ending is what makes it so much sweeter, clementine-sweet, actually. Thanks for the recipe, I'm starting on this project on Saturday.

3:55 AM, February 04, 2010  
Blogger poppyseed said...

These are beautiful and so is your story. I would love to try these.

5:00 AM, February 04, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks for all the great comments. Please do check back and let me know how yours turn out!

8:50 AM, February 04, 2010  
Blogger "Diva" said...

Lucy- I did some of the same this year, but Italy's spicy "mostarda" version- should have poked with needle though- will try again using your recipe before the season is over

9:31 PM, February 06, 2010  
Blogger Jess said...

Lucy, do you keep them in the fridge in their syrup, or just in a cabinet? I made this very recipe back in December and was reasonably devastated to have both jars become botulism colonies! Though perhaps your jars don't completely seal and so can't grow the bacteria? Any advice would be welcome.

7:07 PM, February 09, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear Jess, I would not seal them closed during the sugar confit process. It seems impossible to me that botulism could form in such a sugary and acidic environment. Are you sure that what you're calling botulism wasn't some form of fermentation due to you sealing them closed? I'm sorry you lost your clementines. If you dare try your recipe again, you should do it in a ceramic bowl or open jar.

11:48 PM, February 09, 2010  
Blogger Jess said...

Thanks, Lucy. You'd think the sugar wouldn't allow for such growth, but the smell was distinctly not alcoholic (I've had enough things begin fermenting in my fridge to know the difference!), and the metal jar lids bulged. This all was after the process of "confit-ing" the clementines in open bowls. I'll surely try again because, like you, I was captivated by these in Provence!

12:44 AM, February 10, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hmmm. It is highly unlikely that it was botulism, being a citrus fruit, but nonetheless that does not sound like a good result at all. Honey can have all kinds of contaminants. I know this may seem counterintuitive, but if you do use honey instead of glucose, get a pasteurized commercial version from the supermarket instead of fresh raw honey from a bee keeper, even a trusted bee keeper. Other reasons might be not boiling the fruit long enough to start, maybe not heating the syrup hot enough each time. It's worth another try. Good luck.

7:05 PM, February 10, 2010  
Blogger Goody said...


Today I completed my first batch, and they are wonderful. I promptly set about making a second. Thank you so much for sharing this really lovely recipe.

10:50 PM, February 20, 2010  
Anonymous GG Mora said...

I'm just coming back around to this recipe. I found some perfect kumquats yesterday and am compelled to make them into marmalade. But this post sprang to mind last evening, and I got to wondering if kumquats wouldn't be perfect candidates for this confiture. I'll just have to go buy more kumquats and try it, no?

3:56 PM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Oh I bet they would be fantastic. Do it! Be sure to really give them lots of pricks. I think I might do another batch of these with kiwi fruits this afternoon, very nice for arranging on fruit tartes.

4:01 PM, April 27, 2010  
Blogger kat said...

This is a late, late comment, but I came across your lovely story and recipe in the middle of the summer and saved it for the holidays. As of this morning, three pounds of clementines are taking syrup baths in various bowls on my countertop. (My husband thinks I've lost my mind.)

I'm wondering, though, if I pricked my fruits thoroughly enough. I stabbed them a couple dozen times with a hatpin, will that do the trick?

7:27 PM, December 02, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Wash your hands right now, and pick these babies up to pierce them another couple dozen times. You are going to be so happy to have these come the new year.

10:44 PM, December 02, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a batch earlier which I bottled on March 1st. They are really good now. However, I wonder what I can do with the left over juice? It is good enough to drink on its own, but any other ideas?

Started a second batch yesterday. I used a darning needle with the eye end pushed into a cork as a pricking device.

10:07 AM, December 13, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Excellent. Have you tried it drizzled over yogurt or fromage frais yet? You might consider it as a topping for pancakes on a special day too. Another idea is to soak one layer of a cake with it.

2:16 PM, December 13, 2010  
Blogger Lizkauai said...

I am trying this recipe with kumquats. I live in Hawaii where it is hot. Say 80F during the day. Is it safe to leave them out on the counter?

12:12 PM, December 15, 2010  
Blogger kat said...

After two weeks of boiling and re-bowling, I'm really perplexed -- my clementines didn't retain their shape and mostly became small, sad, pruney-looking things after just a couple of days in the syrup. I also tried to eat one today and the rind was still quite bitter. Pretty disappointing after such a massive amount of work and prolonged mess. Any ideas where I might have gone wrong?

2:48 PM, December 15, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear Kat! I am so sorry your clementines are shriveling. The problem might be the fruit, do you think it was possible that you picked up tangerines instead of clementines? They have a much looser skin and thus might pucker and shrivel like you describe. I hope this does not turn you off from this recipe forever. L

8:12 PM, December 15, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Liz, if you have a cool place in the house I would put it there. If not, I think maybe it's worth it to try keeping this in a loosely tightened jar in your refrigerator.

8:19 PM, December 15, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lucy, I have the same problem like Kat, half of my clementines didn't retain their shape... This is the second attempt, and the result is the same. Is there any way or can you have any idea what to do - to have them all well shaped and delicious.

7:48 PM, January 30, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hmmm. I wonder if it has anything to do with the tautness of the skin at the beginning of the process. For example, when you peel them, is their a gap between the skin and the fruit?

4:58 PM, February 22, 2011  
Blogger Rothrock said...

Just started making these last night. They smell so heavenly. Can't wait.

7:21 PM, July 30, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not wanting to wait, I brought home a kilo of sugar peaches today (small, almost miniature firm yellow peach). I cut them in half and pitted them. My only problem (so far): I ended up with waaay too much liquid. So I poured half off into a pot. It has a nice yellow color but is mostly sugar water, I suspect. I'm trying to reduce it, to see what happens.

Time will tell, then , what happens to the peaches.

-Kevin P.

9:23 PM, August 15, 2011  
Anonymous Martin H said...

Lucy, this looks to be an excellent recipe; I'm trying it today.

One thing occurs to me - you give measurements for the sugar and the syrup, but you don't say how much water makes the right strength of syrup.

If you could say '1 litre of water to 500g of sugar', or whatever, that would make it easier for the novice to follow. Just a thought.

7:11 PM, September 24, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

That's a good point, Martin. However clementines of different provenance and year can vary in bulk. The most important thing is to make sure that the water level is 2cms or about an inch above the bulk of the fruit, to allow the proper simmering to take place. I would not give a ratio of sugar to water, since the original weight is from the fruits themselves. If you wanted to choose a ratio, it might be 1 part by weight of fruit to 1 part by weight of sugar.

10:20 PM, September 24, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:29 PM, December 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a recent trip to NYC, I stopped in at Daniel's bakery where they I discovered clementine confit. Like you, I was instantly captivated. I hope to recreate my experience using your recipe! Thank you for sharing.

8:35 PM, January 29, 2012  
Blogger everyroot said...

Dear Lucy,
I discovered your blog today.
Last month I hate these suits in a restaurant in Lisbon. The Chef told me it were baby Tangerines coffin and that would take 14 days to do it.
After looking for several recipes, I found this, that I believe that s the one.
I have 2 doubts after reading the recipe and its comments.
The Chef told me he used tangerines and not clementines. I bought little baby organic tangerines and now I am afraid it will not work.
The second question is: the ones I have tasted had a licour flavor. Do you think can add some Cointrau or something else to deep the flavour? At what point of the process I would to this?
Thank you,

10:13 AM, March 16, 2013  
Blogger Mike S said...

I followed a method very much like yours using a whole large Buddha's hand citron. I candied it sometime in 2008 and I still use it. It has darkened, especially toward the tips of the fingers, but still has a wonderful flavor and texture. I use it for pastry-making; just cut of the amount I need and put the rest back in the syrup. I did not use glucose or any other additive to prevent crystallization, ergo in the last 2 years, some crystals have grown -- nothing serious; and the fruit itself is not effected. I am going to use your method now to candy some whole etrog citrons and oranges. Thank you for sharing this.

6:38 PM, December 11, 2013  
Blogger Chez Janet said...

Zut, alors ... I hope I'm not too late. Started a clementine confit recipe from another recipe today but found some details lacking. I did the pin pricks after the first blanching instead of before. Is this a problem? Used 2.5c water, 1.25c sugar and 1/8c corn syrup (half recipe) for 12 tiny clementines ... they're covered but just barely. The recipe I have has me re-simmering for 20 minutes every day for 6 days. I need them in time for Valentines Day so I hope this will work? They don't say to add sugar each time ... should I? I couldn't resist a shot of Grand Marnier.

Please let me know what I'm doing wrong. Lot of pressure for Feb 14th.


9:26 PM, February 08, 2014  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Janet, dear, you cannot make this happen in half the time. It is going to take at least 2 weeks and only after some time will the results be worthwhile. Good luck for next year.

9:51 PM, February 08, 2014  
Blogger Magical Moon said...

Hi Lucy, I have 3 batches of these on the go. The first batch's 14 days will be up this Saturday 8th Nov. I am curious, do I add more sugar and bring back to the boil on final day? Or, do I just place in sterilised jars with the syrup?

Many thanks


4:40 PM, November 06, 2014  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hi Ian,

My advice about deciding on what to do the last day is to take one, cut it open, taste and decide for yourself if you think it might need anything more. One more day won't hurt, although I generally put these in the jar with their juice the 14th day without adding more sugar.

Good wishes for more fruitful batches. L

9:42 PM, November 06, 2014  

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