Quince Jam

December 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm 13 comments

Quince Diptych

Tonight I’m watching the first snow of the year flutter in damp fat flakes past  the street lamp outside my front window.  Oh, hey, look!  It’s snowing on the blog here too.  Fun, huh?   Winter is finally at our doorstep.   Seasonal local eating will become a bit of a challenge over the next five months.  But that’s where the beauty of putting up jars of this and that and stockpiling root vegetables and winter squash comes in.  

Quince Jam

One bunch of jars I put up in my cupboard earlier this autumn was of beautiful golden Quince Jam.  This project, my first time working with quince, was a very special one for me.   Just as with the Pickled Pears last year, mastering quince jam was something I wanted to do for my grandmother.  The mere mention of quince brings this amazing sparkle to my 90 year old grandmother’s eyes.   She remembers eating it as a child when aged quince trees were still commonly found in the backyards of most farmhouses.

Quince flowers and My Grandmother

Quince trees are no longer all that common, at least not where I live.  In fact, I had never laid eyes on a quince until last autumn when I saw some while working at Longwood Gardens.   At that time, I wasn’t smart enough to realize I had the perfect opportunity right before me to make a very special gift for my grandmother.  Of course,  this autumn, when the quince ripened and became fragrant (though they stay rock hard even when ripe) in October, I made sure to grab a bag and go harvest a bunch from that very same tree.

Chopped Up

Now, a quick technical discussion on quince might be helpful.    There are actually two different main categories of quince out there: the kind grown for its fruit crop (Cydonia oblonga) and the kind grown for its breathtaking flowers in the very early spring (Chaenomeles speciosa).   The flowers of the former one are so-so and the fruit of the latter is, well, so-so, as I discovered.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d pick the Chaenomeles (flowering quince) over the Cydonia any day because the fruit is still very tasty, just more of a pain to work with since it’s much smaller and not as prolific as the quince bred for eating.  With the flowering quince, you get both a beautiful ornamental plant and a delicious edible harvest.   For this recipe, I used the Chaenomeles, but most quince recipes are calling for the Cydonia so be aware of that if the recipe you are using calls for a certain number of quince…Cydonia fruit is much larger than Chaenomeles fruit.

Quince and Jam

Back to the fun stuff.  This jam is really unique and I now understand why my grandmother giggles at the memory of it.  The quince has an unmistakable texture – a crunch even after extensive stewing – and a very bright tingly flavor that is unlike any other fruit I’ve tasted.   By the way, you really shouldn’t eat quince raw.  You might break a tooth for starters and the flavor of a raw quince is apparently very astringent.  I absolutely fell in love with having this jam over a warm slice of multi-grain toast.  Unlike most jams, this one isn’t overly sweet and that, coupled with the chunky texture, makes it feel like something of substance rather than just another sugary breakfast spread. 

Spoonful of jam bzzzzz

I really can’t wait to give a large jar of Quince Jam to my grandmother for Christmas later this month and watch the sparkle spring up in her eyes.  We’ll have thick slices of toast and jam together and laugh at all the grandkids running around with their freshly unwrapped toys.  What food gifts are you giving for the holidays this year? 

Quince Jam
Adapted from Simply Recipes

10-12 quince* 
3 1/2 cups water
2 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon 
3 1/2 cups sugar

*The quince I use are from the “flowering quince” tree (Chaenomeles speciosa) and are about the size of a small lemon (minus the pointy ends).  The quince you might buy in a supermarket or farmers market are often from the “fruiting quince” tree (Cydonia oblonga) so they are larger, nearly the size of apples.  If you are making jam with the latter variety, use only about 4 fruits or enough to make 4 cups of grated quince.

Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half.  Remove core, seeds, and any blemished bits.  Rinse and do not peel.  Use a large chopping knife to mince up the quince into small bits or use a food processor if you have one.  You should end up with about 4 packed cups of minced quince.

(Place two small ceramic plates in the freezer if you are new to jam making and want help determining if it’s cooked long enough to set up.)

Put water in a large heavy saucepan 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.

Add the sugar, stir well, and bring to a boil again. Keep stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.   If using the cold plate method, remove one plate from the freezer and dab a little hot jam onto it.  Wait a few seconds and then run your finger through it.  If the streak your finger makes stays put, your jam is ready.  If it merges back together, you need to cook for a few more minutes and then test again with the second cold plate.   If you like a less chunky jam, use a potato masher to smooth out the texture a bit.

Place a sterilized jar into a small bowl so you don’t have to handle the hot glass and to catch any major spills.  Ladle jam into sterilized jars. Before applying the lids, sterilize them by placing in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Use tongs to remove each lid from the water as you need it.  Be sure to wipe the rims of the jars very clean before applying the lids and screwing on tight.  Turn jars upside down and cover with a dish towel.  After a bit, you should start hearing the lids pop, indicating they’ve sealed.  When jars are cool, turn upright and test the lids by pressing on them.  If they don’t have any “give”, they are sealed.  If they spring back, they haven’t sealed and you’ll need to store the jar in the fridge. 

(makes about 3 half pints)

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. erasmith  |  December 6, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Oooh, nice. I’m going to give away the Blackberry jam I made from Bartram’s Garden, and I was thinking about doing the vanilla syrup recipe from Food in Jars!

    Reply
  • 2. Sar  |  December 7, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Well wouldn’t you know it that I have a flowering quince on my front lawn. My partner and I refer to as just “the bush” because most of the year it’s not very interesting to look at, and we’ve even considered having it removed. Then our neighbour explained that we shouldn’t trim it the way we have; to let it grow out and it will flower much more. This is the first year we’ve left it to its own devices, and I harvested a bucket of quinces off it a few weeks ago. They’ve been sitting in my garage ever since. I haven’t been sure how to tell if they’re ripe, because while some of them have gone yellow, they have stayed rock hard. I’ll have to give this recipe a try!

    Reply
    • 3. Jennie  |  December 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

      Outstanding, Sar! I’m thrilled to hear you have your own flowering quince and that you had the foresight to save a bucket of the fruit. You should definitely make this jam. You probably read this in the post, but the fruit, even when fully ripe, remain rock hard. So use the ones that are yellow and have a mild fragrance (though maybe the fragrance is gone now if they’ve been picked for awhile). Word to the wise, and not to put you off using the fruit, but worms can be a problem if the fruit sits around. You can certainly cut around any wormy bits and use the good chunks of fruit still, if that doesn’t gross you out too much. :)

      Reply
  • 4. Food-Fitness-FreshAir  |  December 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Aw, I love this idea for your grandmother, she’s going to love it! I actually just came across a quince for the first time yesterday while I was in this little fruit store in center city. I had already made a purchase, but had seen them on my way out and they were on sale and almost had me getting back in line for the register. I never ended up getting one, but I’m super curious as to what they taste like! I’m assuming their tasty since you’ve made them into a jam.

    For Christmas, I plan on putting together some popcorn seasonings for my dad, since me and him grew popcorn together this past summer.

    Reply
  • 5. Foraged from my front lawn « Diggin’ the Dirt  |  December 7, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    [...] got me inspired was Straight from the Farm’s gorgeous post about quince jam (her photography is always so inspiring too!). Like Jennie, I have the flowering quince variety, [...]

    Reply
  • 6. Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie « Straight from the Farm  |  December 19, 2009 at 10:25 am

    [...] write a lot about my grandmother on this blog and for good reason.  She’s an amazing cook who, next to my mother, influenced [...]

    Reply
  • 7. Small Shell Button « ShopBritexNotions & Britex Fabrics  |  February 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    [...] cotton shirt with small shell buttons, take a last bite of my breakfast of bread smeared with quince jam, step into my grey and black lizard skin cowboy boots, and get ready to take off for the library. [...]

    Reply
  • 8. S Johnson  |  February 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Helpl. I have a 96 year old aunt who loves Quince Jam.
    Where can I buy it?

    Reply
    • 9. Jennie  |  February 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that…I just make my own. If you have an amish community near you, I do know that quince is still a common fruit among them and they love to make jams so they migh have some for sale at a small local store.

      Reply
  • 10. electricbluebird  |  August 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I discovered a rogue quince tree on the property of an abandoned house, along with a massive fig tree. I cannot wait for them to turn yellow so I can make this. I want to try to add some clove and cardamom to one batch.

    Reply
  • 11. Rita  |  December 15, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Perfect! I’m planning to make some jam with all my quinces. The recipe I use is quite the same. Last year jam came out wonderful! I hope this year is going to be as delicious as my last attempt!
    P.S. Very pretty blog. I’m adding it to my blogroll!

    Reply
  • 12. Shea  |  October 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you for posting this recipe. We recently moved into a new house and we have a lot of flowering quince bushes on our property. Most of them do not have fruit, but I picked the ones I could find and made a half batch of your recipe for the jam. :)

    Reply
  • 13. ขายบุหรี่ไฟฟ้า  |  May 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

    It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this
    piece of writing as well as from our argument made here.

    Reply

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