Years ago, backyard quince trees were common. People would cultivate them to harvest the fruit for cooking in pies or preserves. Inedible raw, and looking like a cross between a pear and a golden apple, quince cook up sweet, with a vibrant rose color and a floral aroma and flavor. These days you can still find an odd tree here and there in backyards of older houses, though chances are the owners don’t know the culinary delights available in these hard yellow fruit. (I had a quince tree in the yard of my rented home in San Francisco for 4 years and never once cooked a quince. Now that I know better, just to think of it makes me want to bang my head on the wall.)
Here is an easy recipe for a simple quince jam. Feel free to spice it up a little with nutmeg, cardamom, or vanilla.
Quince Jam Recipe
Quince are available in October, November in the Northern Hemisphere. When choosing what quince to pick or buy, smell the bottom of the fruit. It should have a strong floral fragrance. If not, it's not fully ripe. If the fruit comes from an organically grown tree, it may easily have worms in the cores. No problem for jam making, just cut the wormy pieces away from the rest and discard.
- 6 cups (packed) of quince, rinsed, grated (discard cores, leave peel on), from about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- 4 cups sugar
1 Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.
2 Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon zest. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.
3 Add the sugar and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.
4 Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids.
* To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
Yield: Makes about 5 half-pints.