I appreciate that quinces are slightly out of season now but with Christmas just behind us and the all the quince cheese packed in hampers for vast amounts of money this year, I thought it would be timely to post a recipe.
Quinces are my heaven. The smell of them is enough to scent my kitchen deliciously all autumn and I love the sweet, slight taste of bubblegum flavour of quince jelly with cheese.
They are a relation to apples and pears, grown natively in South West Asia, they are bright yellow when ripe. It is believed that the quince may even outdate the apple and that references to apples in the Bible may well have been quinces. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, “in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant” (Roman Questions 3.65). It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite.
The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit. It certainly gets about in a fruity sense. In Edward Lear’s famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” the protagonists “dined on mince and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon”.
“What is a runcible spoon though?” I found myself wondering.
Well, my friends, I can tell you… A runcible is a made up word by Edward Lear. Fictional, fantastical! People have tried defining it ever since. Some as a fork with 3 prongs, some as a spoon with a serrated edge but none of them resemble Lear’s own drawing in which it looks like a ladle. Anyway, I digress… Quinces!
Quince Jelly isn’t the easier recipe and every once in a blue moon, I manage to make a clear batch which is when it’s truly defined as jelly but I think if you’re making it for yourself or for friends and relatives as presents then a bit of a cloudy hue makes it look even more home made! Working in my job, you learn to put a positive spin on most things! The hardest part of the process, for me at least is the straining, but you can buy great strainers from Amazon and I would recommend something like the link below with a stand so that you can stand it in the bowl or pan to drip into.
makes 1.5 litres (4 or 5 smallish jars)
- 3kg (6lb) ripe quinces, unpeeled
- 1kg (2¼lb) granulated or preserving sugar (or 500g/1lb to every 600ml/1pint of strained juice)
- Pared rind and strained juice of 2 lemons
- Wash the quinces well and cut into chunks, removing any blemished or rotten parts – it’s fine to keep the skin on and the cores in. Put in a large pan and pour over enough water to just cover the fruit. Simmer until pulpy, which will take at least an hour.
- Put the pulp into a jelly bag or muslin cloth and leave to drip for at least 4 hrs (or overnight). RESIST THE URGE TO SQUISH – THIS IS WHEN IT TURNS CLOUDY. I am exceptionally impatient but you really do need to wander off and find something to occupy the mind!
- Measure the juice (it’s likely to be about 1.25 litres/2 pints) and pour it into a preserving pan. Stir in the sugar, adjusting the amount if you have more or less, the lemon rind, tied together in a piece of muslin, and the lemon juice.
- Heat slowly, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil rapidly, skimming the scum off the top, until the jelly reaches setting point.
- Pot into warm, dry jars, cover and seal.