Shimmer my Jelly – The Forgotten Pleasures of Quince

Sue Style's quince on a plateIf you’ve never yet met a quince, you’ve a treat in store. These fragrant, downy, golden globes, distant relatives of the apple family, are not so much forbidden fruits as forgotten fruits. They ripen in late autumn and by Christmas they’ve all but vanished. If you’re lucky enough to find some – swoop on them and set them on a beautiful plate in the kitchen while you consider what to do with them. While you deliberate, the air will be filled with their delicate, faintly lemony scent, likened by the 10th-century Arab-Andalusian poet Shafer ben Utman al-Mushafi to the perfume of a loved woman.

Sue Style's baked quince with honey ice creamOne idea is to peel, core them and bake them – whole – in the oven, bathed in a syrup of honey, sugar, lemon juice and water. Done this way they turn magically from a brilliant daffodil yellow to a burnished coppery colour. They’re astonishingly good served warm with honey or vanilla ice cream.

Alternatively, chop them up and turn them into chutney, mixed with oranges, raisins, white wine vinegar, sugar and loads of ginger. For an original apple tart, you can substitute a quince for one of the apples, peel and grate the fruit together, mix with cream, eggs and sugar and bake in a fragile pastry case.

Sue Style's apple and quince tart

Best of all, turn them into a shimmering jelly, which makes a delightful Christmas gift. Pour the jelly into pretty pots, cut fabric hats for the tops and label the jars with pride.

IMG_2080-001Append a little note to each jar explaining to the lucky recipient that quince jelly is magic on toast, or melted and brushed over an apple tart to give a glossy, totally professional French pastry shop finish.

Here’s how to make your own shimmering quince jelly – enough for 6 x 150ml recycled yogurt glasses quinces in basket

  • Select 8 fine, ripe, yellow quinces, scrub them well to remove any down and cut away any brown bits.
  • Cut the fruit in quarters and chop roughly (no need to remove peel or cores) – they’re very hard so a good stout knife will be necessary.
  • Put the chopped flesh in a preserving pan. Add enough water to cover the chopped quinces (about 2 litres/8 cups, depending on your pan and the size of the quinces) and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes or until soft when pierced with a knife.
  • Tip the quince into a colander lined with a muslin or other fine cloth (I use an ancient, slightly threadbare teatowel) set over a large bowl and leave overnight to let the juice seep gently out – it’s permissible to give things a bit of a loving squeeze at the end to extract maximum juice, but don’t overdo this or the juice will be cloudy.
  • Discard all the pulp and pour juice into a measuring jug. For every litre/4 cups of liquid, allow 750g/1½ pounds sugar.
  • IMG_2077-001Put juice and sugar, plus the juice of 1 lemon, in the preserving pan and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 20-30 minutes. Start testing for a good set after about 25 minutes: place a saucer in the freezer, spoon a little jelly onto it, leave for a few seconds, then pull your finger through it – the jelly should wrinkle and form a distinct channel (think Moses and the Red Sea).
  • Pour jelly into sterilized jars and cover while still warm.
  • Eat with a runcible spoon.


[A version of this article was first published on Zester Daily]

5 thoughts on “Shimmer my Jelly – The Forgotten Pleasures of Quince

  1. So glad to read a post on this wonderful fruit!! For the past week, we’ve been enjoying a delicious “pâte de coing” our neighbors gave us in exchange for ceps preserved in olive oil… It’s been our treat along with herbal tea every night. Thank you for for giving us more ideas on how to prepare quince! x

  2. Monday morning inspiration Sue. I’ll have to find some time to bake a quince or two before flying South very soon ……

    1. Can’t believe you swallows are already preparing to fly south and I never caught up with you during summer! Enjoy Kalk Bay, the Olympia Cafe – and yr baked quinces if you can fit them in

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s