How you can make Quince Jelly to use with meat.
Ubiquitous and abundant.
I have often ruefully reviewed the abundant quinces on the ornamental japonica bushes that I always seem to grow wherever I live and thought I really should do something with them.
The chaenomeles or japonica shrub is one of those ubiquitous plants that grows in most gardens on most soils and seems to have no temperament whatsoever. Last year there was such an inordinately large crop in my garden that the bushes were severely crippled with the weight of it all and it seemed somehow profligate if not downright decadent to let the fruit rot on the plant.
Averse to waste in any form and in the face of such fecundity I was forced to do something. I had to make quince jelly. So in October I filled up my baskets despite the quinces being worryingly green and hard as bullets. Then I dug out a simple recipe. Making jams and jellies is often made a bit easier by having the right equipment and I did find it helped to have a proper jelly bag and jam funnel. Luckily these are cheap items and I'll have them for next time.
- 2 lb (about 1kg) Quinces, - washed and roughly chopped
- Sugar, White granulated
- 1 lemon, - juice only
Ornamental Japonica Quince Jelly.
Put the chopped quinces (don't bother peeling, or deseeding them) into a large heavy-bottomed pan and just cover with water. Bring this to the boil and then put the lid on and simmer until the quinces are soft. Despite my quinces being as hard as bullets they really did not take long to soften and then burst but if yours take longer you may need to add a little more water from time to time. I found my large Creuset casserole was the ideal pan for this process.
Once the fruit is soft tip it out into the jelly bag and hang it over a bowl to allow the juice to drip slowly through the muslin of the bag. This process can take 12 hours so it could be left overnight. I suspended my bag from a hook under a kitchen chair which is not the most conventional method but some people use a long-legged stool and hang the bag from the stretchers whilst others use big sieves lined with loose muslin. Whatever method you use it is important that everything you use should be scrupulously clean and the muslin or bag should be sterile. One easy method of sterilising muslin is to iron it with a hot iron.
Although you are supposed to leave the bag to drip I found that the juice was reluctant to leave the fruit pulp, so I gently squeezed the bag to extract the juice. (If you choose to do this be very careful. The fruit is still very hot at this stage and you will also have to make sure it does not escape from the top of the bag into the liquid). However it did have the effect of greatly speeding up the process and after a little squeezing I could proceed to the next step of boiling up the juice to make the jelly.
To make the jelly you simply measure the juice obtained and add 1lb (454g) of granulated sugar to each pint of juice, add the lemon juice if you are using it and, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, bring the liquid slowly to the boil in a heavy, flat-bottomed pan. Let it boil for about 10 minutes then test to see if it will set. The best method for this is to put a clean plate into the fridge before you start making the jelly, to cool it. When you want to test for setting drip a little of the juice onto the plate and return it to the fridge for a minute or two. Then gently push the cooled juice to see if it wrinkles, if it does then its ready.
You could buy a jam thermometer but to my mind that is more expense and the cold plate method works perfectly. If the juice doesn't wrinkle boil it some more and retest, always making sure that you return the plate to the fridge to keep it chilled. I suspect there is a lot of natural pectin (jelling agent) in quinces as I have never had a problem with the jelly setting. Sometimes the jelly can appear frothy and I tend to skim most of this off. Some people drop a small knob of butter in to clear it but I can't say I have found that particularly successful. It then needs to be bottled whilst hot in warm, sterile jars.
Sterilising bottles and lids.
I tend to use old jars from shop-bought jam that I have de-labeled and saved throughout the year, but as I am a bit of a snob I only keep the nicer shaped ones. I like to think of them as being more aesthetically pleasing and worthy of my hard work. They also show off the jewel-like colour of the jelly to perfection. The advantage of these jars, besides the fact that you are virtuously recycling, is that they usually have plastic-lined lids which are ideal for making preserves. Screw these on immediately after filling and then leave the jars to cool. Once cooled, label and store in a cool, dark place
To my mind sterilising is vital though I do know people who don't do this. Perhaps they eat the fruits of their labours straight away? But proper sterilisation means that your preserves will keep for much longer.
The most convenient way to sterilise lids I have found is to boil them for five minutes and take care not to handle the underside of it when you put it on the jar. The jars are washed, rinsed and put upside down into a cold oven whilst wet. I then turn the oven on and let it reach 140℃ - my oven is fan assisted so add another 20℃ on if your oven is not. Once it has reached temperature I turn it off and fill the jars whilst they are still very warm.
What do I serve Quince Jelly with?
The answer to that is 'most things'! Obviously this is a matter of taste again. I like to use it to accompany fatty meats such as lamb and pork, but I have eaten it with cold ham, sausages and even mackerel and certain cheeses.
It has a unique, clean flavour which is a little sharp; it is a sort of fragrant taste. I suppose the real answer to this is 'experiment' and see what suits you best. One thing I do know is that there is nothing quite so rewarding as going to your stash and gloating over the jars of the deep peach-coloured jelly and allowing your mouth to water.
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