Friday, April 1, 2011

Quince Jelly and good neighbours

We have been so lucky. We have had the same neighbours on all sides for as long as we have lived in this house - 25 years so far. And they are all good people.
Nettie and Gerald raised a large family next door - most of whom were grown and gone when we arrived in the neighbourhood. They had and still do have, the most amazing, inspirational veggie garden. They have been kind and generous neighbours - generous with advice, encouragement and produce.
Besides veggies, they also have some fruit trees. Including one that is now coming back into fashion - a quince tree. The tree is small, but laden with fruit. Nettie gave me some this week and I have been turning them into jelly. You can't eat quince raw - it's too sour, but cooked it comes into its own.

Wash the fluff off them, cut them up and put them into a big pot. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook until the fruit is soft. Leave in liquid to cool.
You are supposed to strain the fruit, using a muslin bag, overnight - without squeezing - to get the juice out. This will give you lovely clear liquid that will make a jelly so clear that it almost sparkles.
 However, I don't care that my jelly is a little cloudy - I'm not entering it into any competition, or planning to sell it. So, I wait until the fruit is cool, then I put it into a sieve and squash the bejeebers out of it, to get as much liquid out as possible. It's the pale pink liquid you want - discard the pulp.
 Then I strain the juice through a piece of muslin, into a measuring jug. Quince needs one cup of juice to 3/4 cup of sugar to make a beautiful jelly.
Put the measured juice and the sugar into a large pot. Bring to the boil and boil until it reaches 105-106c on a sugar thermometer. Back when I  had no clue, I made beautiful jelly with no trouble at all. Then I had a disaster and turned one lot of crab-apple juice into toffee, and the next lot didn't set - so I re-boiled it and... turned it into toffee...

I didn't want to waste this beautiful juice, so I bought myself a present yesterday. A sugar thermometer - no mucking around, perfect juice every time. It cost about $38 dollars and I reckon it is worth every cent.

And the scent of quince is heavenly - cloves, apple blossomy, sweet

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