Quince Paste (and Quince Jelly)

 Make together if you want to maximise quinces and effort.

Ingredients

  • 4 Quinces (you can often get them for free from a neighbour’s garden…)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • About 4 cups of sugar – double if you are making quince jelly and paste

Peel large strips of lemon rind from one of the lemons. Put about 4 cups of water in a large pot, add the vanilla pod, lemon rind and the juice of both lemons. Wash the quinces under running water and rub off fuzzy coating. Quarter quinces, but forgot recipes that tell you to peel. There is pectin in the skins and they cook down to a mush anyway.

Remove the cores and seeds but chop off and chuck any manky bits. Put the cores and seeds aside for now. Chop the quinces into cubes and add to the water. There should be enough water in the pot to just cover the quinces. Prepare a muslin bag to hang in the pot containing the cores and seeds. These contain a lot of pectin, as do the skins. I use a muslin bag tied with kitchen string but you could also use a new chux brand cloth wrung out in boiling water. Add this to the pot.

Put the lid on the pot and simmer for an hour and a half until the quinces are very soft. Take the lid off the pot and boil for approximately 15 minutes until the fruit and water are a rosy pink. Take off the heat and use a masher or wooden spoon to break up the pulp. You should have a sloppy mash.

Straining the pulp – for paste or jelly

Prepare a strainer or steamer basket lined with 1 or 2 layers of muslin or chux cloth securely sitting above an appropriately sized pot or bowl. I find a metal steamer sitting over a large pot works really well. Pour your fruit mash into the strainer and allow it to drain slowly for 6 – 8 hours or overnight. You should get about 4 or 5 cups of liquid. In the unlikely event that you don’t, pour some extra boiling water through the fruit mash and allow it drip through. Do not squeeze the muslin bag in an effort to get more juice! (If you are making quince jelly from the juice this can make your jelly cloudy!)

To make Quince Jelly from the juice

Measure your juice in cups and add to a saucepan. For each cup of juice add 1 cup of sugar. Some recipes say to heat the juice and and warm the sugar in the oven etc but I just add the sugar to the juice and stir well as it all starts to heat up. Simmer the jelly until it becomes a beautiful ruby red colour and sets rather than just being syrupy. I now know that the jelly needs to come to Setting Point (103 – 105c ) and boil there in order to jell. This was a very important discovery as prior to this I had lots of syrupy quince juice, but no jelly! Test on saucer in freezer as usual.

Bottle in sterilised jam jars and stick a label on them. I also cover mine with brown paper and string. Yes I am a bit sad.

Quince Jelly
Quince Jelly

This is great on buttered toast or used like red currant jelly to deglaze a pan or to accompany roast meat.

You could of course chuck the juice and proceed to:

Make Quince Paste

Take the fruit pulp from the sieve/strainer, discard the bag of seeds and reduce it to a fine paste using a stab mixer, blender, food processor, food mill or fork! This does mean that you are pulping the lemon rind as well, put it gives it a lovely slightly tangy flavour. Weigh the pulp and add it to a large heavy based (preferably non stick) saucepan with the same weight of sugar as quince pulp.

Quince paste slab
Quince paste slab

Even if you do not make quince jelly first, make sure that your quince pulp has as little water as is possible in it. Preferably drain fruit pulp overnight as for jelly). The less liquid that you have in your quince pulp to start with the better. I have learnt from burnt arms and volcanic explosions from the pot of bubbling paste that water makes steam and quince paste then rockets up the tiles! Making the paste this way rather than from a more sloppy wet fruit pulp results in a less ‘volcanic’ cooking experience and less danger of burning oneself. It also results in a drier quince paste that cuts better and is less weepy. I tried putting a muslin bag of mulling spices in one batch of the paste to give it a subtle spice flavour. It was lovely. I probably could have put a few more in. I used Herbie’s mulling spice blend (http://www.herbies.com.au/shop/product.php?productid=223&page=1). Putting these in with the poaching quinces at the beginning might have given a stronger flavour as water is a better solvent for these spices than hot syrup.

Also wear thick rubber gloves when stirring the pulp for the reasons above, especially towards the end of cooking time. Hot quince paste is like hot toffee – and it sticks!

Well mix the paste, sugar, (and some extra lemon juice if you have some) and cook in a non-stick pot over a low heat for about an hour until it is a paste of a deep red colour. A sheet of tinfoil with holes poked in it cocked askew over the pot can help catch volcanic eruptions, as can a lid left half on. However the aim is to dry it out, so it needs to lose water! This paste needs to be stirred very very regularly as it has a tendency to catch and burn especially towards the end of cooking time. When cooked turn it out into a greased log or square pan for cutting into bars, or round moulds for individual portions. Wrap in plastic and store in sealed containers for keeping for at least a year. It doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, just sealed in a cool dark place.

This paste does not need additional drying in an oven or in the sun. It gives a thick, tangy paste that most people have raved about. It is not a jelly like consistency, if you want that, use another recipe.

Wrapped spiced quince paste
Quince paste wrapped

Once the logs are cold and set and I want to give some to friends etc, I cut the logs into 150g pieces, wrap them well in baking paper, then in brown paper, then tie with string. See pics. I also sometimes add luggage type labels.