Sarah is a passionate and creative cook, which is just as well because she loves variety, and the toddler in her life loves pasta.
Quinces Make for Delicious Jelly
If you are not familiar with quinces, I can't blame you. Not many people grow them these days, and the supermarkets don't often stock them (at least not around here). Quinces probably come from the Eastern Caucasus originally, and they are very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.
So, if you have any Middle Eastern grocery shops in your area, this might well be where you can find these fruits. Quinces are fantastic as a jelly or jam, but they can also be stuffed with minced lamb (which is totally delicious) or added to tagines.
When they are growing on the tree, quinces look similar to both apples and pears—but after they are harvested they take on a somewhat alien appearance as they are covered in a whitish fuzz. It looks like mould, but it is totally normal; and with just a dry dishcloth and not much effort at all, you are left with a shiny green fruit.
One word of warning—even though once you have them looking all nice and shiny they look more like apples, cutting and coring them is a lot harder! Having freshly sharpened knives is a great advantage. Another tip: Depending on how quinces you have, you might also want to consider recruiting a volunteer to help you (I did, and it was great!).
- Large pan
- Chopping board and sharp knives
- Sterilised jars
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- Preserving sugar
- Cinnamon stick (though ground cinnamon will work, too)
Please note: The measurements depend entirely on how many quinces you can/want to get hold of. Weigh the chopped quinces and use half that weight for the water you will add. Then, once you have your quince juice, weigh that and add as much preserving sugar as the packaging instructs you to use.
- Once you have some clean quinces in front of you, cut them into quarters, core them and half each quarter again. (If you are blessed with green thumbs, maybe try and save some of the seeds to grow your own! From my initial research it shouldn't be too difficult growing a quince tree from seed).
- Weigh them now to get a rough idea of how much preserving sugar you will need later on and how much spice you should add.
- I had just over 1 1/2 kilograms of uncooked quince in my pan so to that I added 750 ml of water (so about half the weight of the quinces) and the spice.
- Bring to the boil and then continue cooking it with the lid on for at least an hour. This could take longer though—it all depends on how ripe your quinces were to start with! What you want to end up with is a stew-like texture.
- Let the spice infuse the stew overnight, ideally in the fridge if you have the space but if it's cool enough outside where you are at the moment that could work too.
- The next day, the stew will look less liquidy and more like mush. Line a colander with cloth and squeeze the juice out of the mush. You might end up with less liquid than you had anticipated based on the sheer volume of mush in your pan. After squeezing for ages, the mush looks a bit like salmon mousse (I wanted to take pictures of that stage but my hands were super sticky that sadly this wasn't possible).
- Now weigh the juice. How much sugar you will need will depend on the preserving sugar that you are using—the one I used was to be used in a 2:1 ratio (that is two parts of fruit to one of sugar). I had almost one kilogram of juice left so I added 500 grams of sugar to the cold juice.
- You will now bring the mixture to the boil, stirring the whole time through and once you have reached a rolling boil, keep stirring for one minute before removing the pan from the heat.
- Test that the jelly will set and then pour it into sterilised jars. The colour will be a lovely pink and look super tasty but I urge you to let the jelly mature for a few weeks before opening!
The jelly is delicious spread on toast or pancakes, so you can really impress your Christmas guests if you put a jar of this jelly on your breakfast table (it does make a lovely homemade gift, too). It will also immediately make your baked goods taste like Christmas. Any biscuits or cakes you would put jam into will get a Christmas make-over with this quince jelly.
German Lebkuchen, for example, come in many different varieties, but a very popular version is with a spoonful of jam (usually apricot or cherry) put on before chocolate-coating. This would work equally well with this jelly. Or, if you wanted to dress something more everyday up in a Christmas outfit, why not try swirling it through a cheesecake?
Talking of cheese, since the tartness of quince cuts through fat really well, you could also pair this jelly with cheeses or use it as a glaze for roasted meats. However you choose to serve it, I hope you enjoy the finished product. You deserve it after chopping up all those tough quinces!
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
— Edward Lear, taken from "The Owl and the Pussycat"
© 2018 Sarah