Spiced Quince Jam, A Homemade Holiday Treat
Have you ever tried quince? It’s a fruit that looks like an apple-shaped pear. It’s in season from August-January, and it tastes like an apple with fragrant hints of orange. Don’t eat it raw, though, it’s too astringent. It has to be cooked first, and then it can be added to apple pie or applesauce, or made into jam. The taste is mild and naturally sweet, and with a few warming spices, it makes a perfect holiday gift.
It’s very simple to make quince into jam, because it’s naturally high in pectin. Because of its high sugar content, it doesn’t need much additional sweetener. The most basic recipe for quince jam calls for fruit and sugar, but you can embellish it with classic holiday spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla. I like to add a pinch of salt, and a little citrus zest and juice, whether lemon, orange, or lime. After the fruit cooks for a couple of hours, it turns a lush red color. Quinces are denser than apples, and therefore harder to cut. If you’re making a big batch of jam, get an apple slicer to save yourself time and effort.
If you’re new to “canning” – the general term for preserving food – making fruit jam is a good place to start. Because fruit is high in acid, you don’t have to worry about botulism, which thrives in low-acid, anaerobic conditions. You do, however, need to buy some special equipment, including glass jars and their lids, but the cost is low and the equipment often lasts for generations. Making your own jam, and hearing the high-pitched popping sound of the lid sealing to the jar is really satisfying. Try it once and you’ll see how it can turn into a hobby.
For the complete rules on safe canning practices, a list of equipment needed for canning, and recipes for preserving, check out the excellent website Pick Your Own. Here you’ll find a wealth of information on home preserving, as well as where to find farms where you can pick your own fruit, anywhere in the country. Here is Pick Your Own’s recipe for quince jam, which I adapted:
Note: Look for quince at farmer’s markets and gourmet food stores from now until January. They should be greenish yellow and firm. If they have a few brown spots, that’s okay, but you’ll want to trim them away before making the jam.
Spiced Quince Jam
Makes 4 pints
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 cups quince (6-8 quince), peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch wedges
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest and juice of 2 organic oranges
- Pinch of salt
In a large stockpot, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly, and cook until the jam reaches desired thickness.
While the jam cooks, boil water in a large stockpot. Sterilize the jars in the boiling water. Reduce the heat and sterilize the lids in simmering water. Leave the water simmering on the stove.
When the jam is ready, pour it into the jars using a ladle and funnel. Wipe the edges to remove any spilled jam, and place the lids on top. Screw on the rings, but don’t tighten them all the way. Place the jars in the pot of boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool overnight. Jam is shelf stable for one year. If a jar isn’t sealed, store it in the refrigerator.
Louisa Shafia is a cook with a passion for healthy eating. She recently penned Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of seasonal recipes and eco-friendly advice on food. To watch her cooking videos, see her recipes, and find out about her cooking classes, go to lucidfood.com.