The last Tigress Can Jam of the year but one, and the lovely Cosmic Cowgirl comes to the rescue with the November choice of pomes: apples, pears and quince, oh my! And a rescue it was, indeed, as I still had 20 lbs of apples, leftover from my October picking excursion to Fishkill Farms with Julia, Kate and Liz, going soft in the garage. From that very same excursion, I had a couple of beautiful quince, and some of the most perfect crabapples I’ve ever seen, given to me by the generous Miss Julia; I was so excited, because try as I might, I have been unable to source any quince closer to home.
For my gifted quince, I wanted something special; I thought about a mini-batch of straight-up quince jelly, maybe with some vanilla bean, but once I cooked the fruit and strained the juice, I decided that quince might be a bit too floral for me on its own. I decided to add apple to the mix (I should have called it Pome Pome Jelly) to add a little tang to the floral notes of the quince. Quince is rumored to pack a wollop of pectin (and indeed, the finished jelly is quite sticky) so I was hoping I might get away with half of the usual sugar, but alas, when I attempted the jelly with only 2 cups of sugar it simply would not reach the gel point. Rather than overcook it and sacrifice some of the fresh fruit flavor, I opted to add another 3/4 cup of sugar and that did the trick within minutes. While the set of this jelly is quite nice, a bit loose and wiggly, but definitely jelly (no syrup this time, phew!), I have to admit the sugar is a bit much for my taste. The flavor I quite like; the tangy apple and floral quince balance each other very nicely and the warm vanilla notes tie it all together. The sweetness is a little overpowering, but I did quite enjoy the jelly on toast with a healthy schmear of peanut butter and a dash of fleur de sel. It is a beautiful jelly, with the flecks of vanilla bean suspended throughout; I think it would make a gorgeous glaze for a fresh apple tart. Perhaps there is a glazed apple tart in my Thanksgiving future!
- 2 lbs apples to yield 2 cups apple juice (I used Ida Red, Mutsu and a few crabapples)
- 1 and 1/2 lbs quince to yield 2 cups quince juice (I used a couple of lovely, fat quince gifted to me by Julia)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
- 2 and 3/4 cups sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- pinch salt
- Day 1. Scrub the apples, quarter, cut off stem and blossom ends, then place in a stockpot with cool filtered water just to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; lower heat and simmer until apples are soft, about 30 minutes (I crushed mine, but have since heard not to stir or crush them to prevent cloudy juice/jelly).
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot, scrub, quarter and trim quince. Add water, just to cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer until soft and turning pink, about 2 – 3 hours.
- Strain both apples and quince through a jelly bag, or several layers of dampened cheesecloth, to collect juice. (I strained mine separately, so that I could measure 2 cups of each type of juice, but, you could combine them; it should be fairly close to 50:50). This is best done overnight so that any sediment in the juices will be able to fall to the bottom. Reserve the pulp for butter, sauce, or leather.
- Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Measure 2 cups of apple juice and 2 cups of quince juice into a large (6-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven. Add lemon juice, vanilla beans, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil hard, skimming foam occasionally, until jelly reaches the set point: 120 degrees F on an instant thermometer, or a small dollop on a frozen plate forms wrinkles after freezing for 1 to 2 minutes. Boil hard at the set point for 1 minute, then turn off heat. Remove vanilla beans and snip into 2-inch pieces. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, adding 2 to 3 pieces of vanilla bean to each jar, and fill to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 4 cups.
- As I said, I found the jelly too sweet for me; I originally started with 2 cups of sugar, but the jelly just would not reach the set point. As it is, the set is pretty loose & wiggly. Additional acid in the form of lemon juice may have helped the set and helped to balance out the sugar; next time I would increase the lemon juice to 4 tbsp.
- The quince flavor definitely comes through here, as a lovely floral note, nicely balanced with the crispness of the apple. Unfortunately, the gorgeous quince color did not come through: perhaps because I did not cook the quince fruit long enough (mine were a fairly light pink when I stopped simmering), or the color was overwhelmed by the apple color and/or the color of unrefined sugar. Pure white sugar may help the rosy red quince color shine through, as might cooking the quince even longer, or cooking the quince juice first prior to adding the remaining jelly ingredients.
Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 2 months.