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!
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!
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!