Thursday, October 10, 2013

Quince Marmalade

Quince Marmalade is the last of the unusual and may I say daunting, marmalade recipes in the Northeast section of the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. Whoever heard of cucumber marmalade, or carrot marmalade or tomato marmalade? Not me. Marmalade came from Dundee, in Scotland,  in those white ceramic jars which one then appropriated to put one's pencils in.
Quinces present their own special problem, namely, what are they, and where do you get them? I thought quinces were bright orange, had a smooth skin like a tomato, and sort of a star shaped stem end. I thought I had seen them at Magruder's grocery story in Chevy Chase a couple of years ago. I had  inquired of a fruit and vegetable man at Whole Foods as to when they were available. He told me quinces come in the fall.
When it got to be fall, mid September, I started scratching around grocery stores and the Internet looking for the things.
They were tougher to run down than I would have thought. Harris Teeter might have them in a few weeks. Whole Foods didn't  have them at all. I was shown some uninspiring specimens at the Davenport Safeway and rejected them. I finally found what appeared to be good quality quinces at the Safeway in Potomac. Yay Safeway. They weren't what I had expected at all. They were a pale green with a shape like a lemon on steroids. The fruit and vegetable man told  me they turned yellow when they ripened.
I stuck them in the ornamental fruit bowl on the table and waited to see if they would ripen. Wikipedia tells us that they do not ripen on the tree unless they are frosted and subsequently decay (Huh?). Wikipedia also refers to their strong perfume. I don't have the sharpest nose on the block, but these quinces were not particularly fragrant. Wikipedia also says that quinces, which should properly be referred to in the plural as quince, are not usually eaten raw. I'm  not surprised.
On the first of October, just before we were due to leave for Massachusetts, I decided I had better deal with the quince. I did not want to return to a bowlful of rotten quince.
This recipe, as always, presents certain problems. First of all, it says, four to six medium size quince. Okay. I suspect my quince are bigger than the ones the cook had in mind. I used six. "Put them in a pan" the recipe says.  I guess the author of the recipe had her quince jelly pan in mind. I used the big saucepan. Even then, the quinces wouldn't all fit. One sat on top of the other four. The recipe instructed me to cover it three-quarters of the way with water. Well, in order to have any water at all touching the quince perched on top of the others, I had to use more water than the recipe inferred that I should use.As a result, I had to boil it longer to get the fruit to "jam." But that is getting ahead of myself.
First I had to scald the quince in order to peel them. Peeling my quince was unlike peeling any other fruit, such as peaches, where if one scalds them, the peels slide right off. After doubling the boiling time to account for the quince on top of the other four underwater, I ended  up peeling them with a potato peeler.
Boiling took longer than anticipated. After all, it always does when I make marmalade. I believe in this case the cause was I used more water than the author of the recipe used. Since I don't know how much she used, it is impossible to use the same amount. But I do think I used more because I covered my quince in order to partially submerge the one sitting on top of the others.
How does it taste? Sweet, but without a definite fruit flavor. Even though it contains orange juice and orange peel, it does not taste of oranges. If you want to try this, now's the time, while quince are somewhat available. You do not need a boiling water bath. To can it, one need only boil the clean jars to sterilize them,  put the hot jam in the jars and cover the jam with melted paraffin.

Quince Marmalade

4 to six medium-sized quinces (Sorry, can't help you there. I would say, get what you can.)
grated rind and juice of one orange
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon finely chopped yellow part of lemon peel
sugar (a lot. Buy a five pound bag) 

1. Wash the quince. Place in a pan and add water to three-quarters cover. Bring to a boil and simmer ten minutes.
2. Remove the quince from the cooking liquid. Peel and core the quince, returning the skin and cores to the cooking liquid. Chop the quince and reserve.
3. Cook the skin and cores slowly thirty minutes. Strain and reserve liquid.
4. Place the chopped quince, grated rind and juice of the orange, apples and lemon peel in a heavy pan. Add reserved liquid until pulp is covered by one-half-inch liquid. Bring to boil and simmer gently until fruit is very tender. Mash the fruit. (I used a potato masher.)
5. Measure the pulp into a pan and add three-quarters cup sugar for each cup of pulp. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly until a set is reached, about ten minutes. (It took me over an hour.) )To test for set, put a drop of mixture on a saucer, refrigerate and push your finger into the cooled drop of marmalade. Your finger should leave a clean path when the marmalade is done.)
6. Pour the marmalade into hot sterilized jelly glasses, pour a thin layer of paraffin over and cool. Cover and store in a cool, dark, dry lace. Makes  about 6 six ounce jelly jars.

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