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Real Food: Mandarins sweetening winter meals

Placer-grown satsumas great for ham glaze
By: Joanne Neft
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The slightly warm days and chilly nights of December are just right for fully developing the full flavor and sweetness of Placer County’s Satsuma mandarins. How blessed we are to have this amazing fruit right in our own backyard. Mandarin season runs from November through January so the fruit is available for a variety of recipes — juice, salads, sauces, syrups, marmalade, and desserts. Mandarins are an easy fruit to preserve giving the benefit of marmalades and syrups throughout the year. There are always several big baskets filled with mandarins in the kitchen and more mandarins in the bottom drawers of the refrigerator. Many times we’ve kept mandarins in the fridge until the end of March or early April. You’ll love starting your day with a big glass of freshly squeezed mandarin juice. It’s simple to eat three or four mandarins at one time; they’re easy to peel and easy to pull apart to eat. And don’t forget, a recent USDA study found almost seven times the amount of synephrine in Placer County mandarins as in other citrus. Synephrine is a decongestant. A decongestant is what we take when we have symptoms of a cold or an allergy. So rather than taking pills just grab a fistful of mandarins and eat away your sniffles or stuffy nose. By the way, synephrine in mandarins is not lost by freezing mandarin juice. At our house we freeze several gallons of mandarin juice (in two cup covered containers) and defrost the juice when April allergies fill the air, a much tastier and healthier choice than taking medications. Joanne Neft is a longtime Placer County agricultural advocate. Learn more about Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny’s “Placer County Real Food” project and cookbook at www.placercountyrealfood.com. __________ Mandarin Glazed Ham 2 cups mandarin juice 1 teaspoon thyme salt and pepper to taste 5-6 pound ham 3 mandarins, sectioned 1 cup pea shoots Preheat oven to 325 degrees. To make the glaze, place mandarin juice in a small saucepan, and reduce by three-fourths. Add thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Place ham on sheet tray, and cover with foil. Bake 25-35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove ham from oven, uncover and glaze with mandarin reduction. Return ham to oven 10 minutes longer. Slice and serve on a large platter with mandarin sections and pea shoots. Pairs well with zucchini pickles.