October 1, 2020
A recipe for an old New England staple just in time for the fall
But the fall of the year was when a Bristol kitchen gave off its most enticing odors, for one after another there were special field days for “putting up,” as they used to say, pickles from green tomatoes, making grape jellies and grape jam from the large, fragrant wild grapes of the district. Then the quince jelly and quince preserves were put up; and after cold weather had set in and the pigs were killed, sausage meat was made, and the long and complicated process of making mince meat was undertaken, which at times took the best part of a week before the large crocks in the cellar were filled with this aromatic mixture which would make the filling of mince pies until springtime, and, by the way, kept getting better and better.L. Francis Herreshoff in The Wizard of Bristol, pp. 25 – 26
What Kind of Fruit is That?!
A quince is a yellow fruit that looks like a lumpy hairy pear. Though not originally native to New England, people have been growing them here for centuries. Quince trees have beautiful blossoms and in springtime. The fruit is extremely tough – so hard in fact that you can’t even eat it raw. You pretty much have to stew them for hours to make them even a little bit edible. But this also makes them perfect for jam! And in New England at least, ’tis the season. You will probably be able to find them at your local farmer’s market, if you can’t locate them at a regular grocery store. Try it with Johnny Cakes, on sandwiches, on ice cream, or whatever else you can think of.
Safety Note: these instructions are for jam that is meant to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a few weeks. If you want to try canning for longer term storage, make sure you research how to do that safely. Also be careful cutting and grating – as we mentioned, quinces are super hard, so be careful not to cut yourself in the process!
- 6 cups (packed grated) of quince (about 5 quince or 2 lbs to start)
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 4 cups sugar
- Scrub the quinces in water and chop them in half. Leave peels on, and shred with a cheese grater being careful not to grate the core and seeds into your bowl
- Add grated quince, 4 1/2 cups water, lemon juice and lemon zest to a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until quince starts to become soft, or about 10 minutes
- Add the sugar and simmer until the jam has thickened and turned pink. If it looks like the jam is getting too thick but isn’t pink yet, you can add more water until you get a consistency you are happy with
- Store in a glass jar in the fridge and enjoy!
As always, let us know what you think of this At Home Activity. What’s your favorite autumn jam? Did you try this recipe? Do you have any quince trees in your neighborhood? Let us know! We love hearing from you and there are many ways to get in touch: comment below, drop us an email at [email protected], tag us on Instagram @Herreshoff or post on our Facebook page.