Neighbour’s Back Garden
My mother’s next door neighbour has a large quince tree in her back garden. In fact I can remember her planting it as a young sapling back in the 1980s. Then, in the 1990s I recall my young son scaling the garden wall and scrumping a big, beautiful quince; taking a bite, me catching him in the act and the look of disappointment on his little face because it didn’t taste anything like he’d hoped… so stolen fruit isn’t always sweeter!
Quinces, related to apples and pears, are rather unusual because although they look a bit like a large pear, in their raw state they are very unyielding and in spite of their delightful smell, they are not at all sweet. However, something magical happens when you cook them. Before your very eyes a bright yellow fruit produces amber coloured liquor, which then with the addition of sugar, changes again to a beautiful rich, claret coloured gel.
So not only does quince jelly look pretty, it also tastes pretty and is simply sublime spread on toast or scones. Also, I’m reliably informed (although I have yet to try) that it’s very good with roast and cold meats as well as cheeses …which, with Christmas just around the corner, all sounds very appealing.
Recipe for Quince Jelly;
Anyway, don’t take my word for it. If you’re fortunate enough to know anyone with a quince tree or indeed if you happen to have one yourself, it would be a crime not to make some. So here’s the recipe, tried and tested – believe me, it’s simplicity itself:
- First of all wash your fruit and cut roughly into chunks into a large pan – skin, pips and all.
- Cover with enough water so that the quinces just begin to float and then boil until the fruit is tender.
- Strain the liquid through a sieve – because the fruit holds its shape and doesn’t go mushy, the liquid remains crystal clear.
- Measure how much liquid you’ve got.
- Return it to the pan and add 1lb (450g) sugar for every pint (570 ml) of juice.
- Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to help the sugar dissolve and then continue boiling for about ¾ hour until a little of the liquid poured onto a cold saucer reaches the wrinkle stage. I find placing a couple of saucers in the freezer beforehand makes testing for setting point much easier…
- Finally, decant the liquid into warm sterile jars and seal.
I’m now a quince convert and if we had room at the Villas for another tree then quince, which is a small ornamental tree grown for it’s attractive blossom as well as it’s fruit, would definitely be my first choice. I find it charmingly old fashioned, and the fruit is something a bit different that you won’t find at any supermarket.