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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quince, 2 from 1 recipe

I love making preserves, I've been doing it for years. Friends used to think making jams and such like was weird and say to me "why don't you just buy it from the shop?" I don't care for shop bought preserves, they are far too sugary and often I find it hard to taste the fruit they are supposed to contain. The jams I make are mainly from organic fruit that I grow myself. I love being able to open a jar of peach, raspberry or strawberry jam in the depths of Winter and have a taste of the Summer. My quince tree has fruited this year for the first time, but my new Damson tree hasn't, I'm hoping it will next year.

My favorite Autumn fruit has to be quince, I can eat them in any form and always make jars of jelly, pots of quince paste and a big slab of Membrillo every Autumn. The jelly is good with cheese, poultry, cold meats and a tablespoon full whisked into gravy gives a delicious taste. The membrillo is traditionally eaten with Manchego cheese, but I like to eat it with crackers and cheese, with nibbles and a glass of wine or cut into small bits and added to home made quiche and pizzas.

A bowl of quince sat on your kitchen workbench will perfume the whole house and when they are cooking ~ there's no other way to describe the smell except to say it's heavenly. The mix of floral, honeyed scent will waft through the house.

The recipe I use ~ I can't even remember where it came from as I have had it that long is in imperial measurements. I make a 2 from 1 recipe, you make the jelly first and then make the paste/pate/membrillo with the left over cooked fruit.

The recipe is based on volumes so it doesn't really matter if you have 2 or 20 quince, but don't make too much at once as that can affect the setting of the jelly (and I can't fathom why that happens). I make a maximum batch of 2 kg uncooked weight of quince and I always get a good set. The process is done over 2 days.

You will need:
For the Jelly
Quince, wipe all the fluff off but don't peel
granulated (regular) sugar
Juice of 2 fresh lemons, sieved

For the paste/Membrillo
Cooked fruit left over from the jelly
Granulated (regular) sugar
Juice of 1fresh lemon, sieved
1 vanilla pod

Chop up the quince into rough chunks, they are very hard to cut so be careful. Keep the chunks fairly large to make skinning them later on quicker and easier. As you are chopping pop the chunks into a large pan containing a little water and the juice of a lemon. Quince start turning brown very quickly after cutting but this will not affect the recipe in any way.

When they are all chopped add some water, you want it to just cover the fruit. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on the ripeness of the fruit and the size of the chunks. You want the fruit to be nice and soft when you pierce it with a knife.

Set up a large colander (or sieve), lined with a double layer of muslin or cheesecloth over a large bowl or a clean bucket. Carefully pour the cooked quince mixture into the colander. Don't press, mash or poke the fruit, just cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it to drain overnight.

Day 2
Jam jars, to sterilize them in the oven ~ wash in hot soapy water, rinse well, stand them upside down on a clean baking tray then put in the oven at 130 deg for 20 minutes. Take them out and leave them to cool, don't handle them. Don't put the lids in the oven, sterilize these in a saucepan of simmering water for 20 minutes and hook them out with clean tongs.

Put 2 saucers into the fridge for testing set.

You need to measure the volume of liquid that has drained out then put it into a pan and weigh out the sugar, you will need 1 lb of sugar for every 1 pint of liquid. Add the sugar to the pan and the juice of 1 lemon.

Cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved into the liquid. Bring it to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and test for a set on one of the cold saucers ~ Place a teaspoonful of the jelly onto a cold saucer and pop in the fridge for a few minutes, push your finger through the jelly, if it crinkles up it means setting point has been reached. If it's not setting then boil again for a further few minutes, keep check for a set at least every 5 minutes. Sometimes it can be 5 minutes and sometimes it can take 25 minutes to reach setting point.

When you get setting point take the pan off the heat. Remove any scum that may have formed on the surface with a slotted spoon. Take the time to remove all traces of this as it will affect the clarity of your jelly if left in.

Pour the jelly into a large jug and carefully fill the jars. Wipe the rims with a sheet of clean, damp kitchen paper. Screw on the lids, make sure they are nice and tight. Leave to cool.

Quince jelly ~ this has set perfectly and is nice and clear.

For the Paste/Membrillo
Go through the cooked fruit and remove the skins and the cores, I find that using your fingers is quickest and easiest. Now the hard bit ~ you need to push the fruit through a fine mesh sieve or a moule to puree it and remove any fibrous bits. This may take a while, if you find it difficult to sieve add a little bit of cold water to the fruit.

Now measure the volume of puree. You will need 1 lb of sugar for every 1 pint of puree.

Put the sugar and puree in a large pan, cook gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and the vanilla pod. Simmer this gently for 2 - 3 hours on the lowest heat. Stir it occasionally. It will change colour from a pale salmon pink to a deep ruby red and will smell beautiful, it will be nice and thick. It will also spit all over the place so use a splatter guard if you have one but don't put a lid on the pan.

Towards the end of cooking I fish out the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add them to the pan.

Get a baking tray ready, I use a 12" x 6" x 1" deep ~ line it with non stick baking paper and grease this with butter. If you want paste and like to turn it out of it's mould for a cheese board etc then you will need to line some little containers with buttered paper. If you are happy to scoop it from the pot then you can skip that part.

Pour some of the puree into the containers for the paste and put into the fridge. Pour the rest onto the lined baking tray. Smooth it out and pop it into a preheated oven at 120 degrees for about 1 hour, until the top feels dryish and when you press it it should feel fairly firm. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Store this in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for 1 year, but it never lasts that long in my house.

Membrillo. Cut into small squares and serve with a strong/salty cheese. I like sea salt crackers with mature cheddar or feta cheese.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Weekend In Pictures......

A few pics from my weekend ~

Finished my alpaca, it's plied and ready to knit

I picked the last of the roses from the garden

I picked the first of our quince to make jelly (and membrillo but that's cooking as I type, 2 from 1 recipe to follow)

I planted hanging baskets, pansies and violas are so pretty for the Autumn

I baked cranberry & white chocolate biscotti

I went shopping and saw these fat quarters which I couldn't resist

No knitting this weekend, but I made a simple brooch from felted wool

I have 15 kg of cooking apples to use, any ideas? I've filled the freezer with apple pies, cakes and muffins. The pantry is stocked with apple sauce. I'm thinking apple maybe apple leather. I've never made it before so any tips would be appreciated!