Quinces look half way between and apple and a pear. Mine are a buttery yellow. However they are hard and when cut in half, there is nothing about the smell or texture to suggest that they can be made into something appetizing. But, as I discovered, quinces cook up sweet with a vibrant rose colour and a floral aroma and flavour.
Rosehips are full of vitamin C (20 times more than oranges) and, as syrup has long had the reputation for keeping colds at bay in the winter. Their flavour is reminiscent of redcurrants but more fragrant and quirky.
You have to know this at the outset. There’s a recipe here or sorts, but I can’t vouch for it as fail-safe and the quantities are approximations because I don’t recall exactly what I used.
It only happened because two plants in my garden happened to present themselves abundantly fruit at the same time and suggested the perfect combination. However, I couldn’t find any recipe to follow and so have combined recipes for each and simply brought them together.
I’d actually planted them for their flowers. The quince, a white flowering variety, has been slowly growing in an almost forgotten corner for 12 years and has barely fruited before. The rose is new addition. I chose it for its baby pink flowers that were prettily offset by grey-green foliage. The abundance of gorgeous blood red hips was a surprising, and welcome bonus.
- 1 lb/450g rosehips
- 3 lb/1350g of quinces
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 3lb white granulated or preserving Sugar
1.I first removed the stalks and ‘tails’ from the rosehips and placed in a saucepan pan. I cooked mine with about 1 pint of water, bringing to the boil and simmering gently until the hips were soft.
2. I cut the quinces into quarters and cooked in a separate saucepan with 3 pints of water. I didn’t bother to peel or take the pips out beforehand and cooked these until they were soft and mushy. It may have taken up to an hour. I didn’t time it but checked the fruit continuously until they were soft enough to squeeze easily.
3. Every recipe I found, suggested straining the rosehips and quince overnight through a muslin bag. Something I don’t possess. So instead, I strained the quinces of their juice using a sieve. The rosehips I wrapped in a cotton cloth and squeezed them using a potato ricer, a bit makeshift, but quicker than waiting all night.
4. I’ll confess that after all that effort I was rather disappointed by the pale, slightly flavourless, and a bit woody, juices that each one had yielded.
5. I then combined both juices in a preserving pan with the juice of two lemons, adding the sugar to dissolve over a low heat. Once dissolved I them brought the pan up to boiling and continued to keep it a rolling boil for the next hour or so. With a jam thermometer it is 110°c for setting point, or this can be tested by dropping a few drops on a cool plate, waiting a few minutes and then dragging your finger across the blobs of jelly. If they wrinkle, and how much, is an indicator that setting point has been reached or is nearly there.
6. In the meantime, I’d sterilized my jars in the oven at 200°c and steamed the lids and funnel for 5 minutes.
I won’t say I was entirely satisfied by my first attempt. My jelly didn’t set as it should have done, but I lost patience at midnight and possibly misjudged that setting point had been reached. It might be to do with pectin levels, which I have no understanding of, so that adjusting the amount of lemon juice, sugar is significant.
The result is slightly too runny a jelly, however the flavour is divine. What I have is a unique and delicious, rosy red, currently yet floral condiment for toast, cakes or – as I originally intended – delicious with pork and turkey as an alternative to apples or cranberry.
N.B. Some sagely advice given to me afterwards from Crellow, Prize-winning Chutney & Condiment Makers, Tregony.
“Jessica, I like your effort but in an attempt to help you understand what might have happened……
Firstly you must strain the jelly properly using a jelly bag or a muslin as this does affect the pectin levels in your finished product. Any solids left will not be good for a jelly product. You can make one out of any old fine tea towel or bit of cloth and hang it over an upside down chair. Part of the process is the slow dripping and getting pectin ‘out’. Overnight would have been better.
Secondly setting points thermometers are not necessary for setting and can be inaccurate because they are not measuring pectin they are measuring temperature, we don’t use thermometers in this process at all but wait for as skin test. I suspect your pectin was too dilute, because you didn’t strain it properly and it couldn’t set the end product, it would not have ever set because the ratios were wrong because you were impatient…..naughty person…..
Finally your pectin levels will have been affected by the ripeness of the quince, this is almost too late for jelly making with cydonia as they are now very, very late. The colour will also be affected and you can see that in our range Quince products made early in the campaign are totally different in colour to the later ones and this is to do with how long the juice has had to be boiled, longer the boil, weaker the pectin, later to set darker more intense colour.”