Flowering Quince Jam

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) fruit

Update: Based on some good feedback today (thanks, Ed!), I realized that now would be a good time to update this post.  For those who want a jam that sets reliably rather than one that has a soft consistency, you can modify the following recipe by either reducing the initial amount of water added and steaming the quinces in less, or allowing for time for about half of the water to evaporate (cooking quinces longer before addition of sugar).  You can also follow the gelling-point testing advice of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which happens to have both, temperatures and the very useful spoon drop test (with picture!) that I have grown to like since the original writing of this post.  Hope this helps and enjoy the quinces!

Remember when I talked about quinces?

Yep, those tiny little bright-gold fruit that I’d picked on some ornamental bushes in my neighborhood – well, the other weekend, I picked some more of them off another bush, and then I was faced with a reality of – I still hadn’t bought vodka or rum needed to infuse alcohol with these, and I have bought a bag of sugar.  And I have jars.  And the amount of quinces in the bag in the fridge had grown quite respectable.  Eh, I thought, jam it is!

Well, let me put it this way – the tiny fruit do put up a bloody fight!  I quartered, and I scraped seeds, and I chopped and chopped and chopped until, what feels like hours later, the chopping was done.  Whew!

… and quartered, and cored, and chopped…

Right, I’d only preserved large quinces till now and really did not think about how much work these were, and for a short few moments I wondered if it will all be worth it… until the water and sugar and quinces warmed up in the pan, and the scent hit me.  Oh, oh, oh yes!  It’s worth it!

And then came the boiling and the stirring, and the color slowly deepening to a gorgeous rose-orange, and the scent permeating the entire house – oh, definitely worth the effort of this morning!

and ready, and the lid-vacuum has been achieved!

My recipe for quince jam is my own, which I have based very loosely on a traditional Greek quince jam, but with a few tweaks that make me happier about the result.  I’d never made it with japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) fruit before, but the only difference was that the fruit softened faster, creating a mushier, and to me, even more attractive jam.  There is also a scent difference between Chaenomeles and Cydonia fruit, but it is not a qualitative one – or at least not insofar that one is better than the other.  They differe slightly, and in my opinion, this one is no worse.  It is somewhat like a difference between strawberries and raspberries – each have their adherents, and most (like myself) love both.  Which is to say, if you have got a bush of flowering quince and always wondered whether there was use for the fruit – there is.  And this is it.  And you should make it, lick the spoon like a maniac, jar it, and devour it gluttonously give it away as presents.  Unless you are ok with eating loads of jam yourself – in which case, devour away!

Quinces are naturally high in pectin, which means that the jam thickens without adding any – though this specific recipe produces a softly thickened jam, rather than a set knife-sliceable marmalade, and I prefer it that way.  I do have a recipe for another type of preserves made out of Cydonia fruit, which turns ruby-red and sets hard enough to cut into slices.  But that’s not what this is all about.

What you need (makes 1L of jam):

  • Jars of your choice to put it in.
  • Large, tall pot in which to process them post-sealing.
  • 800g of quince fruit (whole), which, once washed, cored, chopped, soaked in water and drained, translates to ~600g of quince fruit (prepared)
  • 400g sugar
  • 1 lemon (zested, and juice squeezed out)
  • 4-6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater (optional, but it makes the jam utterly lush – if you have some on hand and don’t hate the scent of roses, definitely use it!)

How to do it:

  • Put your jars into an oven set to 75°C and leave them in there for the duration.
  • Pour half the lemon juice into a large mixing bowl and then half-fill the bowl with cold water.
  • Wash, quarter, core and chop quinces into small slices.  Quince fruit tends to oxidize when cut, so drop each handful of chopped quince into the water with added lemon juice as you work.
  • When all the fruit is prepared, drain the quinces in a colander and weigh them.  If you have 600g, great.  If not, no huge problem, simply calculate the amount of sugar you’ll need from a 2:3 proportion of sugar:quinces.  Unless the amount is double or more, no need to increase the lemon, but you can increase the cloves and rosewater proportionally.
  • Dump the quinces into a clean, non-reactive (stainless steel) cookpot, add just enough water to nearly come to the top of the quinces, and bring to a boil.
  • Cook for about 5-10 minutes until quinces are soft.  This will depend on your variety of quinces – Cydonia (true quince) took longer than this, if I remember correctly.
  • Add the sugar, cloves, lemon zest, and half the remaining lemon juice.  Reduce heat to medium and cook the jam, stirring with a wooden from time to time to prevent sticking, until the fruit has broken down and the liquid has reduced to desired level.
  • Add the remaining lemon juice and the rosewater, stir well and boil 15 more minutes.
  • Turn the heat off or take the pot off the burner and allow to stand 15-30 minutes.
  • Ladle into hot jars and seal.
  • Boil water in a large, tall cookpot and lower the sealed jars into it when the water is hot but not yet boiling.  Bring to a boil and heat-process for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove jars from pot using jar tongs, or a spatula and an oven mitt.  Place jars on a wooden board to cool.
  • After 12-24 hours (once the jars are entirely cool to touch), gently test the seals by pressing down on screw-caps to see if vacuum has been achieved, or by unlocking the wire lock and seeing if the lid remains shut.  You want to achieve vacuum post-cooling so that the food is sealed in the jar and microorganisms aren’t getting in.
  • IF the vacuum has NOT been achieved (the screw-cap has not gotten sucked in and makes a pop noise when pressed, or the glass jar lid pops open the moment you release the clasp), stick the jar(s) in the fridge immediately and eat within a week.  Don’t keep it at room temperature any longer to avoid bacterial growth and all sorts of unpleasantness.
  • If the vacuum has been achieved, store in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight.  I imagine this will keep for a year, but it’s never lasted that long in my house.

This works great on toast, on some buttered scones, or over vanilla ice cream.  …Oops, didn’t I tell you to give it away?  Too late now!

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24 thoughts on “Flowering Quince Jam

    1. Veronika Post author

      The quinces, I sadly wouldn’t try – without knowing how long they’d be in the mail and at what temp, and how professionals ship fruit, you may receive a box of rotted mess. :(

      The jam, perhaps – though this batch is spoken for! :D

      Reply
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  2. B. Levin

    I used flowering quince to make poached quince (quartered). I want to serve them over ice cream. They were so tart that the sugar liquid became tart instead of the fruit becoming sweet. I didn’t seal them, simply put them in the refrigerator bec. I want to use them in a few days. Any ideas about sweetening them–or are they meant to be tart? Also mine are pale yellow instead of the beautiful rose everyone describes. Will they turn rose?

    Reply
    1. Veronika Post author

      Hi and thank you for visiting my blog! Apologies for slow reply – we are in the middle of a move right now, so I am surrounded by boxes and not online as much as I’d normally be.

      It sounds to me like you have possibly used somewhat underripe fruit – they turn deeper rose or orange if they are more ripe. The color may also deepen as they stand. As far as tartness – they are supposed to be pretty tart fruit, however, without knowing how much sugar you used in your poaching recipe, I cannot tell you how to rectify it. My initial thought would be reheating them in their syrup and adding more sugar till it’s to your taste, then refrigerating them again until use.

      In the future, I’d recommend using Cydonia (tree quince) for poaching – it tends to be sweeter, and using the flowering quince fruit to make more sugary preparations such as syrup or preserves.

      Good luck and enjoy them! After all, if the ice cream is sweet enough on its own, the tartness may just compliment it as it is!

      Reply
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  4. Ed L.

    Great recipe. I followed it to a T (or rather a G, since everything was measured in grams) and it turned out perfectly. Ended up with about 1350 grams of chopped and processed pulp from my sole flowering quince bush, so I added 700 grams of sugar and I doubled the lemons to 2 and the cloves to 10 (didn’t have any rose water to add). The aroma wafting from the simmering concoction reminded me of Earl Grey tea, and watching it turn from pineapple yellow to deep rose/amber was gratifying. Can’t wait to crack open a jar, but if it tastes anything like the test sample on my spoon, it will be better than marvelous. Cheers!

    Ed from New York

    Reply
    1. Veronika Post author

      Ed, hi and thanks for visiting!

      I’m always hugely happy when my recipes turn out well for other people (you know how kitchens can be idiosyncratic!), and that you are now looking forward to the jam! I think flowering quince fruit is one of the most underused and underestimated ones out there, and it’s entirely worth the bother, for all it’s a pain to clean! :D

      Reply
      1. Ed L.

        Veronika, it took almost 2 hours to clean all the golfball-sized fruit (and I have even more ripening in a paper bag!) but the aroma and result seem to have justified the effort. I may have exceeded the recommended size of the jam batch (another writer recommends no more than 48 ounces — 1360 grams — in a batch, and mine weighed probably over 3000 grams with the sugar and water added); the product seems a tad runny after 24 hours (maybe the pectins were overwhelmed by the volume). But it’s jam not jelly, so I can live with runny.

        Do you have a maximum total weight (fruit + sugar + water) for each batch that you might recommend, based on your experiences? I ask because I’m planning to use some Bhut Jolokia and Thai peppers from this year’s pepper patch to make a pepper jam out of the remaining quinces. Thanks!

  5. Veronika Post author

    Ed, hi again!

    And yeah, I can commiserate about the cleaning – it’s been years and my boyfriend still remembers the profanity in several languages he heard from the kitchen when I made this! (The reason I haven’t made any since is that I’ve moved and I no longer have access to the bush – I do hope to plant one of my own when we get a house to settle in more permanently!)

    As to batch size, I never mentioned it mostly because I tend to cook in tiny batches so I never had this problem. Typically I cook 300-700g of fruit at a time, and fill a couple of small jars, and at that rate, jams tend to set really well. However, I do a little bit of advice that I’ve learned since making this jam and writing this post years ago (I think I’ll update the post now that you’ve asked about it!) – one, you can use less water, because all you really are trying to do is soften the quince. By less I mean not covering all the quinces in it but just adding a bit to the bottom enough to start steaming them covered, or to add enough water to cover but cook them uncovered until about half of the water evaporates out. The other piece of advice is to cook it to spoon-drop gelling test rather than specific time/temperature. There is a picture and some temperatures on this page (link below), and I find the spoon drop test to work better than temperatures, even though I do tend to have a thermometer on the side these days.

    Hope these help!

    The site with the spoon test picture is here:

    http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jelly_point.html

    Reply
    1. Ed L.

      Thanks for the tips, Veronika. I’ll try less water as you suggested, as well as the spoon test. By the way, I started my day with some of the first batch on a toasted “English” muffin with cream cheese, and the unique tartness coupled with the smooth cheese was a winner. I’ll let you know how the second batch turns out.

      Reply
      1. Ed L.

        UPDATE!
        I did everything the same as before, except I used less water for the initial softening. In the same 9″ pot, instead of adding water to the level of the processed fruit, I stopped at about 1″ below. And I stirred the pot a bit more this time to keep the pectins better distributed in this big (1000 G. quince, 666 G. sugar) batch. And, just for fun, I added about 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries from my patch. The whole thing set up great. And that first batch has settled and thickened nicely as well. So, from one lonely 4′ flowering quince bush (probably Chaenomeles speciosa) I was able to make 5 pints of your quince jam and another 3.5 pints of raspberry quince jam. Thanks again for the recipe. I’m set for the winter!

  6. Veronika Post author

    Thanks for the update, and that sounds great! I am always surprised when people seem unsure that they can eat the quinces (or even sure they can’t) – granted, they are usually planted for the flowers, but the fruit are really awesome (even if labor-intensive), and the flavor is great and not similar to anything else (other than Cydonia quinces, which unlike Chaenomeles bushes, don’t grow well further North).

    I was curious, how do you know yours is C. speciosa? The fruit I have in the pictures are probably C. japonica (based on looking at pictures on the internet, since there seems to be a dearth of reference about Chaenomeles species), but I am not entirely sure – I have also seen larger, lumpier fruit on different quince bushes (they were also greener in color when ripe) which I thought looked like a different species or cultivar, and I’ve seen some pictures of bushes with really elongated fruit as well. I do believe they are entirely interchangeable from a culinary standpoint, but it would be interesting to know.

    Reply
    1. Ed L.

      I’m glad you asked. The more I research this particular species, the less I’m certain of what it actually is. My fruits are nearly identical to those in your photos, and based on other research results (mature size, color when ripe, shape and smoothness of skin) I’m going to vacillate back to Chaenomeles japonica. The bush is short and has a few thorns here and there and grows well in USDA plant hardiness zone 5b [ http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/Images/150dpi/NY.jpg ].

      I’m sampling some of the second batch (raspberry) with my morning coffee as I type this, and there really is no other jam that I’ve tasted that compares with it. The raspberries seem to be there in name only, as the quinces dominate with their ineffably tart and zesty brightness.

      One last note: the second batch was made with the smaller remains of my harvest, and a couple were not quite ripe. I believe unripe quinces may contain even more pectin, and that may have contributed somewhat to the thicker end-product, though I’m certainly no food chemist. Just an avid experimenter (and enthusiastic eater). If you’re interested, I could upload some photos somewhere to corroborate our theories, but this quince obsession, if unchecked, may ultimately lead to japonica-madness, and if I go mad, I’ll forget all about finding the fatback!

      Reply
      1. Veronika Post author

        Quincomania. It is an addictive and dangerous slippery slope! Before you know it, we’ll be into Cydonia season (must check the local Middle Eastern shop for it), and then there is really no turning back!

        You asking about a way to share photos and such led me to dust off and hopefully revive the facebook page for this blog, where you can come, interact, send messages and post photos for discussion. It is quiet because it’s been abandoned for about a year, but no reason to not use it!

        https://www.facebook.com/veronikaeatsroses

      2. Ed L.

        Facebook — I tried it once, and that’s one madness I’m quite happy to leave to others. With all the fussing and feeding and ever-increasing social obligations, it’s like rearing a needy child, but children eventually grow up and leave the house, whereas Facebook keeps demanding more and more of your time. The child becomes the parent with Alzheimer’s.

        I still have my (inactive) page, because they wouldn’t let me delete it. “No, Ed” (they said) “You might want to come back, and we’ll keep it here for you, safe and sound. You’ll be back. They ALL come back. Bwaa-ha-haaa!”

        Maybe I’ll upload a few pics to my Google+ page, where nobody goes. I have one “follower” in that ghost town, and I think it might be me, but I’m not sure, because nobody really knows how Google+ works. Or maybe I’ll reactivate my Facebook (dammit!) just so I can service this new and disturbing (but oh so tasty) Quince Addiction. I blame you, Veronika!

      3. Veronika Post author

        Hahaha! I don’t find Facefork so difficult but that is because I don’t view it as a friend-number rat-race: I turn off all notifications except a few, I have a private profile, and only add people to my actual friend list if I 1. know them and 2. actually want them there. Don’t treat it as an obligation and it won’t get out of hand.

        I also viciously block any games or social quizzes and all that crap – immediately and ruthlessly.

        I have a public page for this blog, and it’s semi-separate from the private friendlist. Treated that way, I find Facefork behaves, and is a fairly decent place to put some photos and link my blog articles. Try it, and if it really bugs you, then google+ is also a thought!

      4. Ed L.

        Just when I thought I was out, the quinces pull me back in!

        I agree with everything you said (“games & social quizzes and all that crap”), which is why I gave it up originally. But I’ll attempt to reactivate it, if only for the few intelligent oases I might encounter along the way.

        Just enjoyed your fishmonger post, by the way, and you’re right — the photo of the Gravad Lax made me want to lick my screen. I may have mentioned that I make my own modest batch from time to time. I can only imagine what the real thing must taste like. Your taste buds are indeed fortunate.

        Anyway, enough small talk. Time to grab the camera and make my quince bush a star on Facebook!

      5. Veronika Post author

        If you use Chrome as your browser, downloading the AdBlock add-on is a lifesaver for using Facefork (there might be versions for other browsers as well). It removes about 90% of idiotic unpleasantness, and anything it doesn’t catch on its own, you can select and add to it manually. It’s free and really great for the rest of the net as well!

        P.S. Homemade gravad lax tends to be fantastic, but yes, when the professional make it, I have to say I find it hard to compete sometimes! And I am lucky to be living in Scandinavia – the food here really is glorious. I ought to buy some local specialty – sourdough rye bread without any wheat or added yeast, and showcase it, because it’s really amazing.

      6. Ed L.

        The geniuses at Facebook would not allow me to unlock my dormant account, because my phone number has changed since 2011 (that NEVER happens!) and therefore I could not retrieve the secret code they sent to whomever the now aggrieved recipient of numerous unsolicited texts is. So I made a new post on my Google+ page, and here it is, along with a few photos of this short and now very sweet quince-jam odyssey.

  7. Veronika Post author

    Hah! That is very flattering, and I’m glad to have made another quince-convert! All hail the Almighty Quince! (Wait till I get my hand on some Cydonia fruit…)

    That aside, the size of the bush and the fruits actually do look like what the internet describes as C. japonica – speciosa being reputedly a larger plant with more bulbous fruit. They look more or less the same as the ones I found on some bushes in Stockholm and made my jam out of!

    As to geniuses on Facebook – *sigh*, they appear to be truly retarded. I commiserate (or not), since you haven’t ended up reactivating it and perhaps won’t waste time on it after all!

    Reply
    1. Ed L.

      I spent a grand total of six minutes attempting to resuscitate the comatose account, and I consider it time well spent, given the failure. And yes, they do seem to be retarded. I did have the option of having my “friends” help me rejoin the Book. Ha! I don’t HAVE any fake Facebook “friends,” and I consider myself the richer for it. But I do have real friends, and now I have to decide which of the lucky devils will receive a surprise jar of Veronika’s Quince Jam in their Christmas stockings this December!

      Reply
      1. Veronika Post author

        Lucky devil, whoever that will be!

        Most of the reason I use fb is because the vast majority of my real friends use it as a communication tool. Fake ‘fb friends’ are something which makes me cringe.

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