My parents have a quince tree on the side of their house and it really is beautiful, it has very pretty red flowers when blossoming and this time of year the ripe quinces fall to the ground. They are a bitter and unyielding fruit and cannot be eaten raw but they smell lovely. If you never make anything from the quinces you can at least bring the fruit into the house in bowls and they fill the house with their delicious smell. The unyielding fruit is transformed with cooking and quince jelly tastes delicious. It is easy to make, it just needs a little time, and it is delicious with a lamb roast or with cold meats or spread onto a cracker before a slice of mature cheddar is put on top.
It is an amazing transformation from green fruit to an amber jewelled juice, which becomes even more jewel-like with the addition of the sugar.
This recipe for quince jelly is based on Mrs Beeton’s, the original domestic goddess. I used 600g of prepared quinces and that yielded about a pint of juice, as you can see from the above picture. Mrs Beeton recommends peeling them but that is a very fiddly job, so I washed them and cut out any bruises. I did heed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s warning in the River Cottage Cookbook though that you need to remove the pips before cooking as they can cause stomach upsets. Hugh FW also suggests adding a quince to an apple pie, which sounds like a good idea that I may have to try.
To every 1 pint (570 ml) of juice add 1lb (450g) sugar.
Sterilised warm jars (wash the jars well and rinse well and place in a low oven, 100°c, for about 20 minutes to sterilise)
Wash the quinces and remove any bruises. Slice into chunks and remove the seeds and place in a large pan or a preserving pan. Cover with enough water so that the quinces just float and boil until the fruit is tender. Mrs Beeton suggests that you boil for three hours. I placed it in the simmering oven of the aga, which is the equivalent of simmering on a very low heat, for about three hours. Remove any scum that rises to the surface and strain the juice through a sieve. Measure the juice and return to the pan, adding 1lb (450g) sugar for every pint (570 ml) of juice you have. Bring this slowly to the boil, stirring to help the sugar to dissolve and then boil for about ¾ hour until a little of the jelly poured onto a cold saucer will wrinkle. Pour into warm sterile jars and seal.