Quince jelly is the epitome of sophistication in the jam world. No jam will ever be as fancy or as florally seductive as this one. Not even that lemon grass and lavender jelly your aunt Ruth gave you last Christmas. It is also dead simple to make, despite you may think scrolling through my instructions. I like to know what I’m doing when I’m making jelly, with all those boiling points and whatnot. So this is my simplified, non-candy thermometered version for you (but really for next year me). No other jelly will make you feel as emancipated as this one. You cook it for an hour and then pouf! It’s jelly. I know, magic.
This will take a bit of time, so it will require a bit of planning and / or a rainy day or two. I like to boil and drip the quince on an evening, so that I can turn the liquid into jelly the following day.
Enough quinces to fill a big pot, about 6, depending on size
A medium-meshed sieve
500g sugar per 600ml quince liquid
½ large lemon per 600ml quince liquid
(another) big pot of boiling water (for sterilizing the jars)
Jam jars (with well-fitting lids)
Tongs (to remove the hot jars from the boiling water)
You can tell that this is a bit of a “wing it” job by reading through the ingredients list, so if you’re feeling panicky already, I suggest you have plenty of sugar and lemons on hand, just in case you end up with way more than planned. On that note, the quince water will happily wait for you for a few days in the fridge. I get just over 1200ml of quince water per batch if that’s any help.
The leftover quince can be kept in the fridge for a few days. There are a bunch of things you can do with it, quince paste being one of them. But I’ll get to that recipe in a bit.
Chop the quince into chunks. To start off, I usually cut through the top where the stem is, as I find it can be pretty hard to slice from the side. Don’t worry about size or shape here. The smaller the pieces, the faster it’ll cook, but you’ll also be chopping longer. If you come across any worms or weird growth, just cut it away.
Fill your pot with the quince chunks and fill up with water, 2-3 cm shy of the edge. Top with a lid and bring to the boil. Move the lid slightly so some of the steam can come out, and reduce the heat a little. Let it cook until done – this will vary, depending on how enthusiastically you cut the fruit. I’d say between ½ to 1 hour. The quince is done once it’s very soft when pierced with a knife.
Let everything cool to room temperature. I wouldn’t suggest you rush this part, as I feel the liquid really benefits from hanging with the fruit for a few hours. Once cool, grab your sieve and prop it over the large bowl and gently pour the water and quinces into it. This helps get rid of any grit or seeds that may have got loose during the cooking process. Press down slightly on the fruit in the sieve and place something slightly heavy on top to help coax out the rest of the juices (I usually stick it in the fridge overnight).
Measure the liquid: Per 600ml quince liquid, you’ll need 500g of white sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Transfer all of this back into the pot you used at the beginning. Bring to a soft boil. Now the watching, waiting and skimming part begins! Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat. Use the small sieve to scoop away any white froth that forms. All up, I’d say this part takes about one hour. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, but also so it doesn’t stop boiling.
While waiting for the liquid to thicken, put your saucer in the freezer. You’ll use this for testing the doneness of the jelly later. Once the jelly starts to turn a beautiful reddish colour (at about 40 min), take your plate out and drop some hot jelly on it with a teaspoon. Wait a few seconds, then drag your finger through it. If it starts to form wrinkles, it’s nearly ready.
At this point, get your Big pot with boiling water ready. Fill the glass jars about halfway up with hot water and fit them snugly in the pot. Slip the lids in too. Let them boil away for at least 10 minutes.
Once you feel the jelly is ready (don’t be afraid of letting it boil a little longer – it takes a while for it to get super stodgy), take the tongs and pick out one of the glass jars, emptying any of the water inside it back into the pot. Place it down in front of you, making sure all the water has evaporated, then take the ladle and scoop some of the hot jelly slowly into the jar. Pick out the right lid from the water bath and screw it on. Repeat with the rest.
Once all your jars are filled and screwed tightly shut, turn them around and pop them on their head for about half an hour, then turn them back over again (this is the moment of truth – if some of the jelly starts seeping out from the sides, you know the lid is crap. Open and pour back into the pot while you go off looking for a new jar) The jelly will thicken as it cools. You’ve made quince jelly!
Besides bread and butter, it’s especially great with cheese on toast, or even stirred into a fruity herbal infusion, or for glancing at admiringly from time to time.