Mandarin and coffe NalewkaPicture if you will the mandarin, the scholarly imperial bureaucrat immersed in poetry, the dedicated civil servant in his finest regalia sipping a dainty cup of expresso. Now picture the mandarin, the majestically orange, oblate fruit, the clementine or the tangerine pierced by the finest expresso beans and smothered in the waters of life. One more Mandarincafécello and I will have to pull out my copy of "The Selected Poems of Du Fu".

Yes it's another Nalewka. Part of my …cello series inspired by the abundance of citrus fruit right here in SoCal. Just over the fence my neighbors have an old mandarin tree that has, as is habitual for citrus trees, an insane abundance of little, orange, juicy mandarins. They weigh down the branches, they droop over to my yard and than they drop on my cactus garden making a mess. It's not like I mind the extra organic matter that fertilizes my soil but now I have put at least some of them to even better use.

mandarin tree
You can see the mandarin tree heavy with fruit on the right in the background.

I got the coffee/mandarin taste idea from a "mystery" chocolate I ate from a Valentine's Day chocolate box and the studded mandarin came from a potpourri I once saw.

So what do you need?

  • About 12 mandarin oranges - There are many variations, crosses and cultivars  - tangerines, clementines, satsuma, mikan, etc. If you're not sure just taste it. If it tastes good it will work.
  • Coffee beans - express beans work well but any good quality beans should work. You will need enough to stud all your mandarins, about 12 per fruit. Small fruit let beans, big fruit more beans.
  • 2 liters of vodka - I use Baczewski potato vodka from Trader Joe's.
  • Sugar to taste - I used ½ a cup in mine.

First thing you want to do is stud the mandarins with the coffee beans. Do you really have to? Probably not but it does look cool, like little, orange, multi eyed, alien heads in formaldehyde. I found that the best way was to pierce the skin with a sharp knife and push the beans in. First I tried just pushing in the beans but I soon discovered, that with the pressure I had to use, I was squeezing out the beans already in the mandarin.

Once all the beans were securely in I put he studded mandarins into a baking dish and into a 350°F oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. All I'm trying to do here is release some of the aromatics in the skin and beans.

bake-manderin Like little alien heads in formaldehyde After 2 weeks it already tastes so good.
Bake the studded mandarins in an oven. Like little alien heads in formaldehyde. After 2 weeks it already tastes so good.

While still hot the mandarins go into a Mason jar and get drowned in 2 liters of vodka. Seal tight and leave in a sunny location for about a week. Give it a shake and a roll once a day or so.

After 2 weeks, after straining of the mandarins, you will have a very tasty, citrusy Nalewka with a surprising coffee finish that hints of chocolate. It was very subtle, mysteriously interesting and drinkable right there and than. I was tempted to leave it alone knowing that it would mature over a few months into to a delectable treat. But alas, I did plan for a series of 4 …cello Nalewkas. I was determined to bring it over to the same intensity and sweetness as my Keylimencello and Limoncello Nalewkas.

I took the strained mandarins and coffee beans and mixed them with ½ cup of sugar in a pot. I let this stand, covered, overnight so that the sugar would devolve and suck some of the juices and flavors out of the mandarins. In the morning I mashed up the mandarins with my hands to squeeze more juice out of them and than I brought the whole mess, mandarins, coffee beans and sugar to a boil. Do this slowly because you don't want to burn the mix. Gently boil, stirring constantly, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the hot syrup through a sieve into the Mason jar with the vodka. Seal tightly and leave in a sunny location for another week.

Be careful not to burn the syrup. Filter and bottle. One day I'll make a marmalade from the discarded mandarins.
Be careful not to burn the syrup. Filter and bottle. One day I'll make a marmalade from the discarded mandarins.

Now you are almost done - strain, filter and bottle. This stuff is good to drink right away but with a few months in the bottle it is just divine.

I did my bureaucratic duties early this year and now I can comfortably contemplate my income tax refund, listening to Nasori by the Kyoto Imperial Court Music Orchestra and sipping my 3rd Mandarincafécello. Gagaku music is  hard to enjoy without at least a few stiff drinks - so I say to you Na zdrowie and Kong chien. I only wish I had one of them funky, official, mandarin, hats.

Mandarin and coffe flavored Nalewka.

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