For those who don’t know the quince, it’s a beautiful plump yellow fruit which shape might be described as something between a pear and an apple. The taste however has got nothing in common. The quince has a wonderful honey-like aroma and contains a lot of pectin, hence it’s perfect transformed into jelly. When unripe, the quince has greyish soft hair covering the skin. Raw quince has a very tart unpleasant taste and shows its gustative qualities only when cooked or preserved.
I made my first quince jelly last year, when I was offered tons of fruit from my family. This year, however, I was sure I had missed the quince season… Then, last Saturday, I finally managed a trip to my market and was simply euphoric at the sight of what was probably my last chance of the year. Since the fruits were particularly big, ripe and beautiful, I have taken practically all those which weren’t too much bruised or rotten.
Even though all you need is quince and caster sugar, the jelly is not easy to make. The whole process seems simple, but getting the right consistency is difficult and irritating. Mine were very ripe, so they had less pectin and reaching the right jelly consistency was longer. On the other hand, since these were the ripest quinces I have ever had, the smell and the red brick colour were pure magic…
The yield is very low, but the good news is the fruit used in making the jelly can be transformed too! More news tomorrow!
Preparation: 2 hours
at least 2 kg quince (the yield is very low, I obtained two small jars out of two kg quince)
Wash the quince, scraping the soft hair and cutting off the stems. Cut them rougly in four or more pieces and put them in a big shallow pan (together with the pits, since they contain lots of pectin).
Pour a litre of water, cover the pan and cook it at medium heat until the fruit is well cooked and almost falls into pieces.
Strain the juice. Weigh it and add to it the same weight of sugar (it is also possible, if the quince is very ripe, to put half of the sugar, thus obtaining a slightly tangy jelly).
(Don’t throw away the cooked fruit! Store it in a cool place until the following day. More advice tomorrow!)
Put a small plate in the the coldest part of the fridge.
Start cooking on a medium heat, stirring from time to time.
After 30 minutes make a first test of the jelly consistency. Take the small plate out of the fridge, pour a small drop of the jelly and move the plate.
If the drop stays in place and doesn’t flow, the consistency is right.
Test the consistency every ten minutes and don’t overcook the jelly. Overcooked it takes a burnt caramel taste.
/At this point you can either freeze it (after the jelly has cooled down) or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/
Pour the jelly, still hot, into sterilised jars. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.
Place the cool jars in a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling – water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the jelly and don’t forget to mark the date.
Tomorrow I’ll explain what to do with the leftover cooked fruit…