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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quince Jelly & Paste/Leather

The hot and humid summers here in eastern NC make it difficult to do much cooking that will in turn heat the kitchen up more than it already is (which is a big reason we learned about Haybox cooking). And while I am not a fan of cold weather, I do have to say that by the time Fall rolls around, I am itching to get back into the baking and canning that I've had to steer away from for the last several months.

I kick started our kitchen and dusted off my canning gear this past week after reading a blog post over at The Zero Waste Home about Quince. I'd never tried quince before but I thought I had seen it in the grocery store. Sure enough, I found it tucked in a basket on an end cap among the produce. It looks like a short fat pear and smells... hmm... like a tropical apple, if there were such thing. I think it is from Asia. Apparently it isn't very good raw from what I read but is quite tasty once cooked. I was a little confused that these things were a pale green with white insides because the photo of quince jelly on the ZWH blog was a brilliant red. I grabbed four and headed home.

I followed the recipe which seemed quite simple: Quarter the fruits and throw them in a pot, seeds/peel and all, cover generously with water and boil until very soft. After quite a while I realized where the red jelly came from... apparently quince start turning pink once they are cooked for a bit. Once they were nice and very soft, drain the liquid into a big bowl and leave the fruit to continue draining for about 12 hours. I left it overnight because otherwise I don't have any patience. Then take the collected liquid and weigh it, pour it into a pot, and add the same weight in sugar and the juice of one lemon. That's it. Just three ingredients. Have I mentioned that I love simplicity? 

See, I told you it turned red. The recipe says to boil it until it gels... quince is high in pectin and cooking pectin brings out the natural gelling properties of it. It's like magic. I found this point after a while by stirring the bubbly syrup and then raising my wooden spoon above the pot out of the steam and watching to see if the liquid trying to drip immediately cooled into a gel. Once it did, it was ready to can. I carefully filled my sterilized and pre-heated jars and processed them in a water bath. My four quince yielded three half-pint jars of beautiful magic red jelly and a little leftover that we immediately wolfed down with crackers. And cheese. You can NEVER forget the cheese.

The recipe goes on to use the drained fruit and transform it into fruit leather (blog refers to it as a paste): remove the seeds from the fruit, weigh the fruit and add the same weight in sugar, then blend it together (I used a stick blender) until it is pretty smooth. Then spread the mixture on plates (our four quince yielded enough to spread on two big dinner plates) and leave to dry for four days, flipping over a couple times. We are still working on this part of the recipe but expect it to finish out well.

So there you have it... quince jelly and quince paste/leather. The quince were a little pricier than most other fruits, but when you consider you are using ALL of it (aside from the actual seeds), it's quite a bang for your buck. Too bad they are not local, which will limit our use of them, but an occasional treat is nice. I would like to mention again that this is not my recipe and that you should bounce yourself right on over to The Zero Waste Home blog and thank Bea for it.

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