I don’t care where you are from, your town probably had a local legend that was both feared and revered by local teens. Whether it was a local “witch”, sure to turn children into toads if they came onto her property, or some sort of half human/half animal creature roaming the night, there was a creature of lore nearby.
Growing up in San Antonio, my husband had the Donkey Lady. No, this wasn’t something nasty from Tijuana. It was a half woman, half donkey creature lurking in the San Antonio night.
As a teen growing up in Corpus Christi, my local mythical beast was the Goat Man. I guess he was supposed to be half man, half goat. I always pictured him like the Goatboy character on Saturday Night Live, though, which wasn’t exactly terrifying. All of the local teens, with nowhere else to be on Friday night, and nothing productive to do, would go out to Goatman’s. It was really just a semi-remote area of town, with small chance of law enforcement coming by to discover the clandestine drinking and other shenanigans being had by the local wildlife.
But in Corpus Christi, there was another lesser known urban legend that was part of my life. The Chocolate Orange Jelly Man.
He wasn’t scary. He was a sweet little old man, whose wife had a penchant for Russell Stover’s Chocolate Orange Jellies. My friend Suzanne worked at the local Russell Stover retail store (that’s how old I am—Russell Stover used to have retail stores). I had heard from her for a few years about the Chocolate Orange Jelly Man, and how his once annual pilgrimage to the store struck terror into the hearts of all who worked there. In order to understand why, you have to understand the complex process of packagin the chocolate orange jelly.
All of the candy came in 20 pound bulk boxes. To display them in the store, we would take 20 or 30 pieces of each type of candy, and place them in the little brown candy cup thingies–the ones that look like tiny cupcake wrappers. One Maple Nut Creme into one brown candy cup thingy. You get the picture.
But chocolate orange jellies were different. They were sticks of orange gelee, covered in dark chocolate, and were about 2 inches long, and only 1/4 inch in diameter. You had to take two of them, place them together with the bottom sides touching, and place them in brown candy cup thingy, and then repeat the process with 2 other chocolate orange jellies. In the end, there were four chocolate orange jellies in each brown candy cup thingy.
Needless to say, it was a pain in the derriere. And The Chocolate Orange Jelly Man always bought Mrs. Chocolate Orange Jelly Man FIVE POUNDS of them. FIVE POUNDS! That’s a lot of chocolate orange jellies being carefully arranged into little brown candy cup thingies.
How do I know this for sure? Because Suzanne hooked me up with a job there. It was a great place to work as a sophomore in High School.
First of all, we wore these cute little uniforms that looked sort of nurse-like. Short white dresses with blue ties at the neck.
Secondly, even though I don’t eat much chocolate, the smell all day was AWESOME! I smelled much better after work than my friends that worked at Taco Bell.
And lastly, people that come into a chocolate shop are just not in a bad mood. They may be in a bad mood when they head for the store, but from the minute they step in, they become like kids in a, well, in a candy shop. Looking, smelling, pointing at everything. Smiling. Tasting. It was a great place to work.
Except for the Chocolate Orange Jelly Man. Since I had heard the lore for years, and since my esteemed co-workers kept assuring me that since I didn’t know what he looked like, and they did, I would be the one having to do the deed when The Chocolate Orange Jelly Man made his appearance. It was some scary times, folks. Waiting. Fearing. Waiting some more.
Then it happened. Mother Nature’s call, I mean. Three large Chick Fil A sweet teas sent me to the teeny tiny washroom in the back of the store. From this place of solice, and rest, you could hear your co-workers helping customers, hear the cha-ching of the cash register. Hear the Chocolate Orange Jelly Man walk in and greet your friends, while you were still safely processing the gallon of tea. And hear your friends, with near terror in their voices announce “it’s The Chocolate Orange Jelly Man!”
Heh heh. Yep. I dodged the chocolate orange jelly bullet. I can’t call my demeanor as I emerged victorious from the toilet as anything less than smug.
But he was a really nice man….And it was a really great job for a kid. I do have very fond memories of the place and the people.
My gourmet food market has been having a citrus fest for a few weeks, and that means availability of fruits seldom seen in this area. They always have the standards of course: oranges, tangerines, tangelos, white and red grapefruits, lemons and limes, as well as some of the less common but not super exotic fruits: ugli fruit, blood oranges, meyer lemons, pummelos, and kumquats.
But this week, they have some really rare treats: kaffir lime (and leaves), finger limes, Buddha’s hand (Cthulhu fruit), and variegated lemons (with pink pulp), just to name a few….
Absolutely, positively my most favorite offering this time of year is the Kishu Mandarin, the most diminutive little mandarin available. I know everyone loves Cuties and Sweeties, but the Kishu makes them seem ginormous. Kishus are only available for about 12 minutes in January, and are not cheap—about $7.00 per pound. Considering they are worth their weight in gold though, that’s kind of a bargain.
I do have to hide them or lock them up from the pesky neighbor kids, though. Even as I type this, my son and his friends will be descending upon my house, and my stash is unguarded. I did leave a bright green sticky with the word “NO” on the bag this morning, so we’ll see if that did any good whatsoever.
The little orbs of juicy, seedless citrus are as sweet as candy. The peel is super thin, and slips off easily. You just pop the whole thing in your mouth, and enjoy. Due to their tiny size (the smaller ones the size of grapes, and the bigger ones the size of walnuts), they lend themselves to some really fun dishes. You’ve seen them before on my blog, when I used them atop some Bittersweet Chocolate Orange cupcakes, as seen here:
This year, I had a lot of fun playing with, and eating these little golden treasures. If you can’t find them at your market, use cuties instead, and break them into quarters or individual sections once peeled.
If the Chocolate Orange Jelly Man were still alive, and I knew where to find him, I would bring him five pounds of these. They are the same flavor of the Chocolate Orange Jellies, but even better…
• 1 dozen Kishu mandarins, peeled
• 8 ounces high quality dark chocolate, melted
Dip each kishu into the melted chocolate, and allow the excess to fall back into the container. Place the dipped kishu on a piece of wax paper, and repeat until remaining kishu have been dipped. Allow to sit in cool place until chocolate has firmed up. Serve within a few hours.
Variation: before dipping in chocolate, carefully place one whole blanched and toasted almond into the center of each kishu
Chocolate Covered Brandy Cordial Mandarins
Like cordial cherries, but with tiny mandarins. I’m not even kidding when I say these are highly addictive.
• 2 dozen smallest Kishu mandarins, peeled
• 2 c. sugar
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup brandy
• 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
• 1-2 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
• 2 pounds of high quality dark chocolate, tempered
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir and cook until a candy thermometer reads 226*.
Remove from heat, and allow to cool to 110*. Add confectioner sugar a little at a time, whisking until very thick but still pourable.
Using 2 spoons, carefully dip and coat the mandarins in the fondant mixture. Place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. When all have been coated, place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
When chilled thoroughly, dip each mandarin into melted chocolate, and place on wax paper. When set, repeat a second time. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, and place in a cool dry place for 3 or 4 days to allow the fondant to turn to liquid.
Mandarin Almond Pastries
• 6 puff pastry shells (one package)
• 1 cup almond flavored pastry cream
• 6 Kishu mandarins
• ½ cup orange marmalade
• 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Bake the pastry shells according to the directions on the package. Remove center. Pipe pastry cream into the shells. Chill.
Place mandarins and orange marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until marmalade is melted, and stir gently to warm and coat the mandarins.
Place one mandarin on each pastry, and drizzle some of the melted marmalade. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and chill until ready to serve.
Serves 4 meal servings, or 8 appetizers
• 8 large scallops
• 8 jumbo tail-on shrimp, headed and peeled
• 8 Kishu mandarins
• 16 fresh red Thais chilies, or Szechuan peppers
• 1 cup orange marmalade
• ¼ cup Sambal Oelek (red chili paste)
• ¼ cup soy sauce
Peel the mandarins, leaving one thin strip of rind around the center to hold it together. This is simple, as the mandarin is very easy to peel. Thread skewers with one scallop, one pepper, one mandarin, one more pepper, and one shrimp. Repeat 7 times to have 8 kebabs. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, and melt together. Remove from heat. Place kebabs in a baking pan, and pour marinade over them. Turn occasionally, leaving to marinate for one hour. Grill over medium fire for 5 minutes per side.