Saints Preserve Us
Quinces (mela cotogna - or cotton apples as they are known here) are a pesky fruit. They're procrastination petrified into fruit-form. I can't help buying them when they come into season, easy to find and inexpensive as they are here, but I dread and prolong cooking them. I love their rosy boudoir smell, their downy fur as soft and grey as a mouse which muffles the loud yellow shout of their waxy skins. They're a mythical fruit, a romantic one, a golden apple with a heady scent of rose petals and leaf-mulch and half a cut apple. But then you have to cook them. They are - it must be said - quite forgiving to a lifelong procrastinator such as myself. They keep for ages. Weeks. I bought a handful just before Christmas and thought to myself, well I'll do something nice with those. And then I promptly forgot all about them except for in passing when they reprimanded me with a whiff of almost-fetid Turkish Delight.
A month later they were still there, still fine, still waiting to be cooked and I could put it off no longer. I failed to think of anything very creative to do with them and made them instead into this jelly. I have never made a quince jelly before and I can't really think why, as it was much more straightforward than I imagined and is a very good preserve to have up your sleeve, especially to eat with salty cheeses. The most time-consuming thing was - of course - prepping the quinces. Patience is a virtue...virtue is a grace...
Adapted from the brilliant Towpath Cafe Cookbook.
sugar (around 500g)
1lemon, cut into pieces.
Wash the quinces and cut them into pieces (you'll need a good strong knife - they're tough). Add them to a deep saucepan with the chopped lemon and 1.5 litres of water. (add them as you chop so the pieces don't go brown when exposed to the air)
Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until the quinces are very soft, mushy almost, which will take about 1.5-2 hours.
Press the whole soft mass through a sieve until you have a clear liquid. At this point if you like you can strain the liquid again through a jelly bag to make a perfectly clear jelly (I had just found a jelly bag at the back of the cupboard so I did do this). It is also good a little cloudy, so the choice is yours.
Weigh the liquid, and add enough sugar to equal about 60%, so for 1kg, 600g of sugar.
Place a saucer in the fridge.
Bring the liquid and sugar to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming away any scum. Test a dribble of the jelly on your cold saucer; replace the saucer in the fridge and wait for a few minutes. Run your finger through the jelly and if a clear trail remains the jelly will set. If not return to the boil for 10 more minutes or so until you reach setting point.
Pot in sterilised jars and seal. Congratulate yourself.