Sunday, September 09, 2007

September's Ripe Fruit

Autumn is my favorite time of year, hands down, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I didn’t even mind that it meant the beginning of school because I like to learn new things. I love fall colors with all of the reds and golds and browns and oranges of the turning leaves. Fall is also harvest time. The apples ripen, the winter squash harden their shells, the tomatoes become almost unbearably sweet and juicy and the pears are in season, too.

The property where I live used to be part of a large farm. Near the old farmhouse, which is over 100 years old, there is an enormous shrub. It grows at least 7 feet high and as much around. The first year we lived here I noticed that the shrub (which is not a tree as far as I know, because it has many, many shoots growing up from the ground, not a central leader) had what looked like fuzzy funny shaped pears growing on the branches in the summer. In late August those fruits had changed to a yellow with green tinges and, eventually they were bright yellow gold and all the fuzz went away. The stem then came easily away from the branch and they smelled heavenly. I knew they weren’t pears, but I didn’t know what they were. I filled a bowl with them, put the bowl on the dining room table, and the perfume kept the room smelling really nice for over a week.

At the fairgrounds in early October that year we went the county Harvest Fair. One of the exhibits of fruits had those strange knobby pear shaped fruits with a name label…now I knew that they were pineapple quince.

Grandpa Merrick moved back to our area a few years later. When he spotted the quince he immediately asked if he could take some when they ripened to make jelly. Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I agreed readily. In exchange I received a couple jars of rosy colored quince jelly. My daughter was his favorite granddaughter, so he gave her a jar just for her. She still remembers how much she liked that jelly.

She will be coming home for a flying visit soon. There just might be a jar of quince jelly waiting for her, a fond collaboration between Grandma Loyce and myself. Neither one of us had made jelly for ages and ages, but today enough of the quinces were ripe enough, we had the time, and I had made sure we had the equipment, so we made jelly. It was fun cooking with her in the kitchen I designed and helped to remodel, in the old farmhouse where she now lives. If Grandpa Merrick were here he would have joined us, I’m sure.

In case you want to make some quince jelly yourself, make sure that the quinces are ripe, with no soft spots. Quinces are not good to eat straight off the shrub because they are quite hard and astringent. You don’t need to add pectin because quinces are loaded with pectin (a natural jelling agent). The version we made allowed you to keep the skins on, but I did cut off any blemishes on the skin, along with the stems and cores. The actual time that you work in the kitchen is only a couple of hours, but the process takes most of the day since the cooked pulp needs to slowly release the juice over 3-4 hours so that you get a nice, clear, rose colored jelly. It tastes somewhat floral, too.

This recipe seems to be a good entry for In The Bag: September which asks us to use a seasonal fruit. This innovative event asks participants to make something using the items that have been designated as being 'in the bag' that month. It is an ongoing event hosted, turn and turn about, by Scott of Real Epicurean (this month), Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie and Cherry of Cherry’s English Kitchen.

Oh, and another use for quinces (the ones that are overripe or have major soft spots) is to bowl with them, especially if you live at the top a hill as we do, on a country road. In the morning when we walk down to get the paper, we bowl a few quinces down the middle of the road and see which one goes the furthest. Ah, the simple joys of country life, heheheh.

Quince Jelly

3 1/2 lbs of quince, washed, stems removed, cored, quartered (leave skin on)
7 cups water
Enough sugar to add almost a cup of sugar (about 1 cup) for every cup of juice (about 4 -5 cups)

1 Put quince pieces in a large stockpot with a thick bottom and add water (if you are eyeballing it, put in enough water to cover the pieces of quince by about an inch.)

2 Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the quince pieces are soft.

3 With a potato masher, mash the quince to the consistency of slightly runny applesauce. Add more water if necessary. If the mash is too thick, you won't get enough juice out of it.

4 To strain the juice from the pulp, place a metal strainer over a pot. Drape 2 layers of cheesecloth over the strainer. (Can skip the cheesecloth if you are using a fine mesh strainer). Ladle the pulp into the cheesecloth. You may need to have two strainers set up this way. Let the pulp strain for 3 to 4 hours. If you aren't getting enough juice out of the pulp, you may need to mix more water into the mash.5 Measure the amount of juice you have. It should be about 4-5 cups. Pour into a thick bottomed pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Measure out the sugar – about a cup for every cup of juice. Add sugar to the juice.6 Bring to a boil, initially stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved, so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Insert a candy thermometer to monitor the jelly temperature.

7 As the jelly cooks, skim off the foam that comes to the surface with a spoon

8 As the temperature rises above the boiling point of water (212°F), you will notice the consistency of the jelly/juice begins to change. When the temperature is approximately 8 degrees higher than boiling point at your altitude (anywhere from 220°F to 222°F at sea level) the jelly is ready to pour into jars.
Note that candy thermometers aren't always the most reliable indicators of whether or not a jelly is done. Another way to test is put a half teaspoonful of the jelly on a chilled (in the freezer) plate. Allow the jelly to cool a few seconds, then push it with your fingertip. If it wrinkles up, it's ready.

9 There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

10 Use a large ladle to pour the jelly into the sterilized jars to 5/8 inch from the top rim of the jar. Use canning jars with canning lids to seal the jelly. Sterilize the lids by letting them sit in just boiled hot water for a few minutes. You will hear a popping noise as a vacuum seal is created as the jars of jelly cool.

(To be safe, we put the jars full of jelly, topped with sterilized lids and bands, into a canning pot, added boiling water to cover, plus an inch, and simmered that for 45 minutes, then let cool. Check the lids for a good seal my noticing if the lids are concave. If not, push down on the center. If the lid stays down, it is sealed. If not, refrigerate and use the jelly within a week. )

Makes 4-6 cups of jelly. We got 6½ 8-oz. jars of jelly.

Posted by Elise on Sep 28, 2005 on Simply Recipes


  1. Oh how I love all things quince! It is soooo underrated in my opinion.

  2. Wow.. so I guess my obvious question is.. how does a yellow fruit make pink jelly? It's gorgeous! I've never had quince, but I've always wanted to try it.. we don't get them here (at least none that I've ever noticed).

    Do they taste like pineapple as well as smell like them?

    Lovely photos, sweetie!


  3. Anonymous5:21 AM

    I've always wanted to learn about preserving fruit. Thanks for this lessons with pictures to boot! :)

  4. Your jelly looks beautiful - I have never tried quince before.

  5. Okay, Elle, I am moving to your corner of the world. It would such a joy to be your neighbour.

    Hugs to you my friend.

  6. As soon as I saw the picture I knew what you had and i'm jealous, jealous, jealous. That amzing smell fragrancing your whole house yu lucky woman...

  7. Do tell me that you save that foam & use it in something? At least ... spoon it off into a jar, and pour it over toast? :)

  8. Anonymous2:55 PM

    Lovely site, Elle! I had a quince bush on the last property I lived at and had no idea what they were also :)

  9. I like the sounds of it, but I've never had anything quince!

  10. Peabody, I agree. They smell so good, too.

    Lis, I think that the cooking does took a long time of boiling for the sort of light amber juice to turn rosy pink. The fruit turns pink when you poach them, too. Chemistry...who knows how it works?
    They don't really smell like pineapple, it's more that they have a pineapple shape and color. They smell floral and taste that way, too.

    Veron, it's been a long time since I did any canning or preserving...I like it better now that I'm getting ancient :)

    Deborah, Thanks!...quince is not a common fruit...I'd never even seen it before we moved here.

    If you ever get tired of the island living, I'd love to have you as a neighbor!

    Inge, Please don't be jealous...if we could send smells through the web I'd send you some quince fragrance :)

    Davi, No, Grandma Loyce is a 'neat' cook..the foam went into the sink. Still plenty of jelly for the toast.

    Maryann, Thanks! Quince really are odd looking, aren't they?

  11. Such a heart warming post! Great tips too for preserving. Thank you for sharing with us.

  12. Anonymous6:07 AM

    Thanks so much for stopping by my site, Elle.

  13. I love all those fruits you put in your blog, especially the quince. Cheers from Fruity

  14. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I kissed the mailman because I could not kiss you! My house smells like an orchard!

  15. Your jellies are such a beautiful color - I think quince is such a lovely fruit!

  16. We had a quince in the front yard at the house, although the fruit was red so I believe it was only ornamental. Maybe you can e-mail me some of the jelly instead. Wink..wink..

  17. Amanda,Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post and tips. You are sweet.

    Maryann,You're welcome. It's a great site!

    Fruit Species, I love the fruit, too. Tomatoes are actually fruits, so if youinclude them I'm super fruity.

    Tartlette, Lucky mailman! :) The box smelled so fragrant that I was sure they would demand I open it. Even if you don't do a thing with quince, they make the house smell so good.

    Anita, Yes, ans that's the color that just happens when you cook it enough. So pretty.

    Valli, Wish ther was a way to e-mail you some jelly :) Ornamental quince does have red flowers. We have some of that, too. It is very prized for Chinese New Year celebrations.

  18. I've never seen nor eaten a quince despite reading about them many times. Am I missing out?

  19. Look at that beautiful blush colored jelly!! I must this! I made plum jelly a few weeks ago (as a novice "canner") and am now looking for other jellies to try. GOREGOUS.

  20. I am drooling over that pic of yours with the sparkly jelly atop that oozing melting butter ;)Quinces are just the best. I live in South Africa and have been making (and selling from home) the jelly for years, I use a recipe which has been passed down through the generations in our family. My mom taught me never to core the fruit (unless it is spoiled by a moth) as the core and pips contain most of the pectin. I quarter my quinces and don't mash them, I put them through a muslin or cheesecloth bag that I tie up and then hang over a large bowl (just from one of my cupboard door handles)to drip overnight. I don't throw away but use the boiled fruit to make tarts or even just dot a bit of butter on them and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and then roast them in the oven just to crisp up a bit. They are divine with hot custard or thick cream. If you dont make them too sweet you can serve them alongside pork or game roasts. Delish!!

  21. Anonymous1:10 PM

    The Quince bushes we have are about 4' X 4' after about three years. They are pretty well loaded with yellow and greenish fruit between golfball and tennis ball size.

    I have not a clue it they're eatible or if we can make jeyyy, but I'd sure like to try

    You have a great site



  22. sound good we have a quince tree but cutting them open found they were slightly brown inside are they still ok or are they over ripe they are still quite firm

  23. mick, they are ripe when they turn bright yellow and have a floral fragrance. If they are brown in the center they are probably over ripe. they tend to stay hard except where they turn brown. the ones we bowl can be a third brown and still hard enough to roll down the road. since you have your own tree, keep an eye on them next year and use them as soon as they turn true yellow. sometimes the fuzz will also start to disappear when they are ripe and ready to use and the smell test is a good one.