The quince, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful fruits out there. Being slightly more irregular than the pear and dusted with a bit of tan fuzz they are an artist’s delight. And then there’s the scent, sort of a honey apple that seems to float in the air. The fact that they are rather hard to find in this country definitely adds to their allure. There is something else magical about quince…uncooked; their off white meat resembles the consistency Styrofoam. Not until the quince is cooked for several hours do they transform into soft edible fruit, with an even more beautiful aroma and a lovely rosy color.
Quince is very high in natural pectin, making it a natural for making preserves. In fact the word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese word marmelada or a preserve made from quince. The word then morphed into something meaning any gelled fruit…go figure, and the English and their citrus took it from there.
Now in Greece, quince are plentiful and are used to make all manner of delicious delights from something akin to our apple sauce to quince paste, a yummy confection resembling grown up gummy bears. Having a Greek neighbour, with her own quince tree, I have had the opportunity to play around with quince and make a few of these treasures. But this year I decided to go all out. I found a gentleman at the farmer’s market who was selling quince and I purchased 6 LBS so that I could make actual quince marmalade.
Okay, so it’s seriously labor intensive. Peeling and coring the quince is not for the faint of heart and then cutting them into little pieces about the size of shoestring potatoes does take a while. Although the cooking time is long, it’s not like you have to monitor the pan at all times so that helps. And the result is to die for…the flavor is sweet apple honey goodness and the color is like the finest glass of rose wine. Well worth the effort in my opinion. So if you can rustle up some quince, take the plunge and turn a beautiful fruit into an even more beautiful marmalade.
I worked from the recipe in ‘The Bluechair Jam Cookbook’ by RachelSaunders
½ LB Peeled and cored quince
1 LB & 2 ¼ additional LBS Granulated sugar
5 LBS Quinces cut into eights
3 ½ oz. Fresh lemon juice (meyer lemon)
1 Star Anise
1 ( ½ inch) Vanilla Bean - split
1-2 oz Brandy
Peel & core ½ LB of Quince. Slice thin slices and then cut each slice into this strips - think shoe string potatoes….Combine quince slices with 1 LB of the sugar in a non reactive pan. Add two inches of water - I actually measured with my ‘kitchen ruler’ from the bottom of the pan to a depth of two inches. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to a simmer and cover half way with a lid. Cook without stirring for about 2 ½ hours. The liquid will turn a lovely color of rose and the quince slivers will be translucent. Be sure to check the mixture at about 20 minute intervals to see if the mixture looks too syrupy - if it does add a little water. When it has finished let the mixture ‘rest’ for the night.
While you are cooking the quince slivers, prepare the quince juice. Place the quince eights into a nonreactive pot and fill with cold water to cover the quince by one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat and allow to simmer, covered for 2 to 2 ½ hours. It will be a wonderful rose color when it is ready and the liquid will have thickened to the consistency of a light syrup. While the quince cooks, occasionally press down with a wooden spoon on the fruit to help soften them. The fruit needs to remain submerged so add water if necessary.
Strain the juice from the fruit but pouring through a colander over a heat proof bowl. Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain.
Next morning, remove the quince pieces and their juice from the refrigerator and strain through a fine sieve to collect any remaining solids.
Place a plate and spoon into the freezer to be ready to test the jam later.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the little quince pieces and any of their liquid, the quince juice, 2 ¼ LBS sugar, lemon juice, star anise and vanilla, and stir well. Put the mixture into a nonreactive pan and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook at a rapid boil until a small amount of the mixture removed with the spoon and placed into the freezer for a couple minutes is the consistency of jam - about 25 minutes cooking time. Stir in the brandy and stir constantly.
Skim any foam from the marmalade, remove the vanilla bean and star anise. Pour into ½ pint jars and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove from the pot and cool.
For all your hard work you will be rewarded with the most luscious marmalade, fit for toast, cheese, or spoon…