Quinces

 Quinces cooking on the stove – is there anything that has a better aroma?  As raspberry jam heralds an incoming summer, so the aroma of quinces announces the arrival of autumn.

 About two weeks ago, my daughter Stephanie found three large trees of quinces going to waste on a country road on the outskirts of New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley.  The owners were pleased to see them put to good use, so we were able to collect many containers full, ample for making dozens of jars of quince jelly, yum.

 More recently, just a couple of days ago in fact, friends at beautiful Marion Bay rang and asked if I would like the quinces from their tree.  Oh my goodness, would I ever, so made haste to their property where they had picked several bucketfuls for me.    These are perfect specimens, and I’ve kept them in my kitchen for the last two days, savouring the delightful scent that emanates from them – it has now filled the whole house.

 However, the time came today when I could delay their cooking no longer.  After the quinces (or any fruit) are picked, pectin levels start to drop, so it is best to make your jam or jelly as soon as possible after harvesting.  So simmering away here on the stove at present are toffee quinces and the first stage of quince jelly. 

Toffee quinces have always been our children’s favourite dessert, made by simmering quinces in a heavy sugar syrup for about 3 hours.  The quinces take in the sugar syrup, sweetening the flesh to the core, in return imparting their wonderful flavour and intense red colour to make a rich and delectable sauce.  The toffee quinces are lifted out and served with a little of the sauce and vanilla ice cream.  The rest of the sauce can be bottled as for quince jelly.  It will not form such a firm set as jelly made by the usual method, but its flavour is astounding.  This jelly, unless you choose to strain it, has small pieces of quince skin and flesh encapsulated in it. I leave you to imagine how delicious this is served on scones with whipped cream or on fresh baked bread and butter, or even on toast for breakfast.

 I also prepared sparkling quince – a delicious “soft” drink totally free of artificial colours, flavour or preservatives so it’s ideal to serve to children.  I’ve done this before using the discarded cores and skins from making quince conserve.  I’ve used whole quinces in this instance, simply substituting chopped quinces for the chopped rhubarb in the sparkling rhubarb recipe.  In fact, I’ll post the recipe for the quince version right now.  I can’t see any reason why using whole quinces will make any difference to using the cores and skins – the favour should be even better in fact.

 I’ll also post the recipe here for my regular quince jelly.  As well as the usual uses as a spread, try adding a little to a gravy, jus or casserole style dish.  

 Whichever way you choose to use them, it is truly well worth the effort to find some quinces, whether from a friend’s tree or from a fruit and vegetable market, to make these easy recipes.  I am sure you too will fall in love with the unique and inimitable quince.

 Toffee Quinces

 1.5 kg quinces

1 kg sugar

Juice one lemon

Small strip of lemon rind

7 cups water

 Wash the quinces, making sure that the ‘bloom’ is removed.

 Place the whole quinces in a large pot with the sugar, lemon juice, rind and water.

 Bring to the boil, stirring often.  Reduce heat to very low and barely simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

 Lift out the quinces and serve these as a dessert with vanilla ice cream.

 Pour any remaining liquid into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately – this will set into an exquisite, intensely flavoured quince jelly with small pieces of quince skin and flesh suspended in it to serve as a delightful topping for fresh bread, scones or toast.

 Quince Jelly

 1.5kg quinces

Juice 1 lemon

Water

Sugar

 Rub the quinces with a tea towel to remove the furry ‘bloom’.  Wash and chop into 2.5cm pieces, approximately.  Place in a large saucepan with the lemon juice and enough water to cover.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the quinces are very tender.  Strain through a colander, then the resulting juice through a sieve or colander lined with a double thickness of muslin. (If you don’t have muslin, you can just use an old pillowcase, single layer).

 For each cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar.  Bring to the boil and boil briskly for 20 to 30 minutes or until setting point is reached.  To check for set, place 2 teaspoons of the mixture on a chilled saucer and place in the fridge for a few minutes.  If the mixture sets, then your jelly is ready.

 If scum forms on the top of the jelly as it’s cooking, simply remove with a slotted spoon.

 Sparkling Quince

 875g sugar

4 cups boiling water

11 tablespoons white or cider vinegar

14 cups cold water

875g chopped quinces

1 lemon

 Place the sugar and boiling water in a very large pot or food-safe bucket and mix until sugar dissolves.  Stir in the cold water and vinegar.

 Rub the ‘bloom’ from the quinces with a tea towel and wash them.  Chop the lemon and quinces and place in the bucket with the rest of the ingredients.

 Place a tea towel over the bucket and leave to stand at room temperature for 2 days, then strain I do tis first through a colander, then the resulting liquid through a fine (nylon) kitchen sieve.  Pour into bottles, filling only to the base of the neck of the bottle and seal immediately.  Used PET bottles are ideal for this purpose, or you can purchase them new from home brewing suppliers.

Leave for ten days to 2 weeks, by which time it will have developed its “fizz”.

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