Great on cheese and charcuterie boards or with roasted meat!
At first glance, you might be surprised – as I was – that odd looking quince – a fruit typically harvested in autumn in parts of North America – can be transformed into a delicious savory jelly. Popular for millennia in and around the Mediterranean, quince look like lumpy pears but have the texture of very hard apples. Though inedible when raw, cooked quinces yield fragrant and delicious juice with a pretty rosy-orange colour. I love the combination of rosemary and quince but you could also use fresh thyme if you prefer.
- 3 1/2 pounds (1.6 g) fresh quince (about 5 – 6 large quince)
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, divided
- 7 cups water
- Juice of 1 – 2 fresh lemons
- 7/8 cup (3/4 cup+ 2 tbsp or 170 g) granulated sugar PER CUP OF PREPARED JUICE
- Wash quince and cut off stem ends; do not peel them. Cut in half and remove cores; discard stems and cores. Cut out any bruised bits. Coarsely chop fruit into large chunks, 6 to 8 pieces per quince.
- Place quince in a large pot with three of the rosemary sprigs. Add water then bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until fruit is soft, about 1 hour.
- Mash cooked quince with a potato masher or a large fork. Add more water as needed to the mashed fruit to create a texture like soupy, chunky applesauce.
- Place a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth (or use a finely meshed strainer) over a large bowl or pot. Ladle the watery mashed fruit into the cheesecloth or strainer. Leave it for at least one hour. Avoid the temptation to squeeze or press on the draining fruit to extract more juice – your jelly will be cloudy if you do.
- You should end up with at least 4 cups of juice. If you are not getting much juice, stir a little more water into the mash in the cheesecloth-lined colander or the strainer (do not add water directly to strained juice or it will be too diluted).
- Sterilize canning jars in boiling water. While jars are sterilizing, measure juice. Pour quince juice into a large pot. Add 7/8 cup (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) of sugar AND 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice per cup of quince juice.
- Bring juice to a boil over high heat. Stir constantly at first until sugar is completely dissolved then reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil (uncovered pot).
- While juice is cooking, remove leaves from remaining sprig of rosemary and finely mince.
- Continue to boil, stirring the juice and sugar mixture occasionally, until the mixture reaches the setting (gel) point. This is easiest to determine with an instant read thermometer – the desired temperature should be 220F or 105C.
- If you don’t have a reliable thermometer, you can also test the mixture by placing a small glass or china plate in the freezer. Drop half a teaspoon (approximately) of the cooked juice and sugar mixture onto the cold plate. Let it cool for a few seconds then nudge it with your fingertip. If it wrinkles, it has reached the gel point.
- Stir in the minced rosemary. Note that the mixture will still be a bit runny but will firm up as it cools.
- Skim off any foam on the top then ladle the jelly into sterilized half-cup / 125 mL canning jars, leaving ½ inch (1.25 cm) space at the top. Wipe rims and screw on canning lids.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove jars of quince jelly from boiling water bath and allow them to cool completely. If you choose to skip this step, be sure the canning lids have ‘popped’ to create a tight seal or store the jars in the refrigerator for up to one year.
Makes 5 – 6 cups, approximately.