Thursday, November 14, 2013

Flowering Quince Jam!

The important thing is that men should have a purpose in life. It should be something useful, something good. – Dalai Lama 

Not too sweet, and "floral." No other way to describe it.

This is a re-post from last year but bears repeating. It’s the perfect time to go out foraging the flowering quince. Yes, they are useful, and make something quite delicious.

Photo: fyrefiend, Flickr ccl
Flowering quince can be a bit of a test of your tenacity. We have one under a front window that was planted far too close. There is no way we have been able to kill it, and the root is too large to move. Currently it is buried under a hill of dirt. That will probably only make it angry.

I would love to have one in a more practical spot, especially now that I know a “secret.” You can use the fruit to make jam.

Everyone knows the bush I’m talking about. It’s actually quite breathtaking in bloom – literally covered with hot-pink flowers. This bush's botanical name is Chaenomeles speciosa.

Quince in the store are Cydonia oblonga. Cydonia are not winter hardy in Nova Scotia.

Any recipe that uses those quince can use flowering quince fruit. The flowering quince fruit is smaller, so if a recipe calls for a specific number of fruit be aware that you’ll need more. Cydonia quinces can be the size of apples.

Remove seeds and obvious blemishes.
You can "forage" your flowering quince from your own, or your neighbour's bush. They probably won't have a use for them and will look at you strangely when you ask to pick.

Because of our growing season don’t expect the quince to be ripe as you would expect an apple to be ripe. They will be as hard as rocks – and almost as difficult to deal with. They also will be somewhat green/yellow outside. If you can, pick ones that have started to yellow.

It’s also best to wait until the frost hits them once or twice. This helps develop the internal sugars. But don’t try to bite into one. It will either break your teeth, or suck all the saliva out of your mouth. They are unbelievably astringent. Smell the quince – it should have an pleasant, unusual, floral aroma. This translates into your jam.

I’m actually quite amazed that such a nice jam can be made from something so unpromising. When you're making the jam it does a magic trick close to the end of cooking time. It turns from yellow to quite a lovely orangey red º– almost the same colour as the flowers!

Quince makes a very old-fashioned and unusual jam. It has a bright flavour that is unlike anything else. It also is not overly sweet which makes it very different than other jams and jellies.

This is what it looks like at the start.
Quince are high in natural pectin so all you need is the fruit, sugar and water. They also contain more Vitamin C than lemons.

Flowering Quince Jam
Prep: 45 min  |  Cook: 45 min to 1 hour  |  Yield: 3+ cups 
Adapted from Simply Recipes
4 cups finely chopped flowering quince (between 5-7 fruit)
3-1/2 cups water
juice of one orange
zest of one orange 
3 1/2 cups sugar
*1/4 cup Grand Marnier (optional)

Unless you are used to making jelly, use a candy thermometer for this.

And then, miraculously, it turns this colour!
To prepare the quinces first wash the fruit well and remove any obvious blemishes. The ones I picked had some dark spots on the skin, which I didn’t remove. Bruises were removed.

Quarter the quince and cut out the cores. This may take some doing. They are very hard. 

Chop the quince in a food processor – or a chef’s knife – into small pieces. Measure out 4 packed cups of fruit.

Place the quince, water, orange zest and juice in a stock pot. Simmer for 10 minutes to soften the flesh. then add the sugar, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low.

Cook the quince until a thermometer reads 220°F. This is the jelly stage. It may take 45 minutes; it may take an hour; it may take longer. 

Stir occasionally to ensure the jam doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Skim off any "scum" that forms on the surface.

Once ready, prepare your canning jars by sterilizing the glass, rings and lids in very hot water. Fill the jars leaving a little head room. Place the tops on and tighten the rings on top.

Turn upside down and let sit on the counter for 1/2 hour. Flip over and let cool completely. The lid should be dimpled down to show that the jars are vacuum sealed. If they aren’t, refrigerate. Better safe than sorry.

I used Dollarstore cage-top jars. Since there was no way I could know if they were sealed, I refrigerated mine.

* If adding the Grand Marnier, stir it in after the jam has reached 220°F and is off the heat. The extra liquid will make a slightly softer jam but I wouldn't worry. It certainly won't make it runny.


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