Sunday, 21 October 2007

Quince Jelly & Quince Jam (Paste)

I looked at quite a few recipes for my quinces, and found a number that started out by covering the quinces with water and boiling them. Then one was to discard the pulp and keep the liquid or, conversely, discard the liquid and keep the pulp. The sensible thing, it seemed to me, was to keep both. Hence, this is a recipe to make both jelly and jam , also known as "paste", "cheese" or "membrillo", if you are Spanish.

The Spanish serve this with Manchego cheese. Being a Canuck, I plan to try it with some nice old Cheddar, or a good sheep's milk cheese if I can find one that seems right.

8 250-ml jars paste
3 250-ml jars jelly
Rather a long time. 3 or 4 hours I would think.

1.8 kilos (4 pounds) quinces
4 litres (4 quarts, plus) water
sugar - more or less 7 cups

The quinces should be just ripe; slightly greenish to yellow and rather hard. Wash them and cut them into small pieces, peels, cores and all. (Do feel free to discard any obviously bad bits.) Put them in your kettle with water to cover generously - about 4 litres.

Bring to a boil, and boil until they are very tender and falling apart, about 45 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Lift the quince pieces out of the kettle with a slotted spoon, and put them through a food mill. Discard the seeds and stringy bits that won't go through. Strain the remaining liquid through a jelly bag.* They always say not to squeeze the bag or you won't get clear jelly, but I always squeeze like heck. It isn't as pretty, but it doesn't affect the flavour and you get more; in this case I would say much more, but that may just have been my particular jelly bag.

At this point, you can store the substances obtained in the fridge and continue the next day if you like.

Put the number of canning jars you think you will need for the jelly into a canner, and cover with water to 1" above the rims. Bring to a boil and boil ten minutes. It's a good guess that you will need one 250-ml jar for each cup of juice you have.

Meanwhile, measure the strained juice, and put it in a heavy-bottomed pot with 2/3 the amount of sugar. So for example if you get 4 cups juice, you should add 2 2/3 cups sugar. Bring to a boil and boil, stirring occasionally, until it tests as ready to gel. You can put a little on a very cold saucer (put in the freezer in advance) and see if it wrinkles up when you push it, or you can run it off the spoon until it forms a sheet, or at least runs off in more than 2 streams. I found this very quick; quinces are packed with pectin and my jelly was done in about 10 minutes. (I also didn't have a lot of liquid, so that helped speed up the process.)

Ladle the jelly into the sterilized jars and seal with lids and rims that have been prepared by boiling them for 5 minutes. Pop the finished jellies back into the boiling water bath for 5 minutes to ensure a good seal.

When they come out of the canner, put in the number of 250-ml jars you think you will need for the paste. Again, one 250-ml jar for each cup of purée. Measure the puréed quinces, and put the purée in a larger heavy-bottomed pot (ideally a canning kettle) again with 2/3 cup of sugar for each cup of purée. Bring to a boil and boil, STIRRING CONSTANTLY, until thick; again, 10 or perhaps 15 minutes will likely do it.

It was recommended that the cook should wrap their arm in a towel, and I took that as good advice; I would add, pin it in place with a safety pin. The stuff gets very thick, and plops and spits like a boiling lava pit. Nothing like clinging, boiling sugary fruit pulp to give you burns that will leave scars for years, so use caution. At the same time, this is why you must stir constantly: it is so thick that it will scorch in seconds if left unstirred.

When it is thick enough put it in your sterilized jars. Run a knife through it to remove as many air pockets as you can. Seal with boiled lids, and put back in the canner for 5 minutes, as with the jelly.

My jelly turned out very well, I thought. The paste is a bit coarse in texture, which doesn't bother me particularly. If it did, I might peel and core the quinces instead of just chopping them, and wrap the cores and peels in cheesecloth to be boiled along with the rest of the fruit then discarded. The strained quinces could then be put through the food processor for a smoother texture. I doubt I'll bother though; I don't find the rustic texture I achieved unappealing.

*A clean old pillowcase will do very well, or 4 layers of cheesecloth in a strainer.


Peter M said...

Ferdzy, thanks for showcasing quinces. I have a few recipes on the backburner to try and my mom keeps talking about quince recipes...I now have that push!

Unknown said...

Thanks! exactly what i've been looking for and great detail. I'm a novice, so really appreciated clear direction.