The Other Quince

Japanese quince flowers are truly enchanting in the spring. But the fruit that ripen in mid-fall sure aren’t pretty: hard to the touch and to the teeth, gnarly, pitted, inhabited often. Raw they are so tart that they’ll make your mouth puckers (if you don’t break a tooth first biting into it)  and your stomach  revolts if you manage to swallow. So why do I want anything to do with them?

jap quince 006 comp

Because, when managed correctly, you’ve got some pretty tasty treats. That’s why!

European quince (of which I have written, here, and here) turn into hauntingly floral soft fruit once cooked, making them great as side dish to rich meat, as sauce, in baked desserts, ice-cream, jam, jelly, booze etc.

Japanese quince are viewed almost purely as ornamental in the Western world and their culinary use is much more limited. (If you are interested, do check out this page on the medicinal properties of Japanese quince). Because of their incredible tartness I have only used them with lots of sugar: jam, jelly, syrups & cordials. Or honey – it’s a wonderful combination.  And their aroma? Think sharp lemon jam with floral undertones and none of the bitterness. As they cook with sugar they turn a perfectly beautiful red hue.

Now isn’t that something you could use? Tart, beautiful color, fragrant? I thought so: don’t let your Japanese quince go to waste!

Granted, it’s some work to get it all done – but think about it: how much time did you spend taking care of the shrub? Zilch would be my bet! So get your knives out and get going.

You can turn the fruit into an exquisite jam (recipe for Japanese Quince Jam below). Or you can cook it and strain it: the resulting juice is absolutely wonderful in jelly (Recipe for Japanese Quince Jelly below), and the remaining purée can be used for jam or rustic fruit paste (less nice than if you also use the juice, but still nice). But here is my triumph – and I came to it accidentally. I had been chopping hot peppers – without gloves – while a pot of jelly was simmering. I used my finger to taste the jelly… and I had this most wonderful spicy hot, sweet and tart taste… the best hot pepper jelly.

Now, I like some hot pepper jellies – the one made by my friend Jennifer, as well as the one made by the Turners through their Virginia Chutney Company. But too often the jelly is over-sweet and too rubbery. It’s because one must use lots of pectin since peppers don’t have any to talk of. One must also use vinegar for acidity – and sometimes sub-par vinegar is used. But here I’ve got this incredibly tart juice that naturally so full of pectin that it jells if you look at it wrong. In fact that when I tried to make a syrup, it jelled solid over night.

Anyway… that’s my triumph: Japanese Quince Hot Pepper Jelly. Try it – you won’t regret it.

japanese Quince Jelly

And what to do with the jelly? The regular one makes a kicker glaze for fruit tarts or upside-down cakes (much tastier than apricot) – besides plain good on toast or biscuit! The hot one is great with a young goat cheese or will make a grown-up peanut butter sandwich – as well as nicely finish a pork roast or grilled chicken.

To make Japanese quince jam:

  • Japanese quince
  • Sugar
  • New (baby) ginger or chopped crystallized ginger ( optional but either add a very nice touch)

Core, remove stem-end and flower-end of quince. Remove any bad spot (of which there can be many!). No need to peel (Note that some people don’t core, but as I use a food mill some of the seeds get crushed and go through – something I don’t care for, so I remove the seeds).

Put all in thick-bottomed non-reactive pan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until quince is very tender – 1 hour or more.

Pass the fruit (and accumulated liquid) through a food-mill fitted with the smallest-hole grate. Weigh the puree. Add sugar to 80% ratio of fruit (by weight) if you like it tart, 100% less tart. For example: if you have 2.25 lb of fruit puree, add 1.8 lb to 2.25 lb of sugar.  Add the chopped ginger. Mix well. (Note I never do more than 4 or 5 lbs of fruit at once)

(discard the residues in the food mill – or use them to simmer with water to make pectin)

Return to the pan. Simmer until the jam has a beautiful orangy-red/terra-cotta color – 1 hour or more – check often and stir to prevent scorching.

Process in a water-bath for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints, 15 minutes for pints for long-term storage, or let cool and refrigerate.

 

To make Japanese quince jelly

It’s almost the same process as above.

  • Japanese quince
  • Sugar

Remove stem-end and flower-end of quince. Remove any bad spot (of which there can be many!). No need to peel nor seed (Note that some people don’t core, but as I use a food mill some of the seeds get crushed and go through – something I don’t care for, so I remove the seeds).

Put all in thick-bottomed non-reactive pan and cover well with water. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until quince is very tender – 1 hour or more.

Pass the fruit (and accumulated liquid) through a jelly bag and let drip for a few hours.

Measure the juice, return to the pan, adding the same volume (or slightly less) sugar. Bring to boil stirring constantly for 10 minutes to dissolve sugar, and boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, stirring almost constantly -  until the jelly has a beautiful orangy-red-terra cotta color.

Process in a water-bath for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints, 15 minutes for pints for long-term storage, or let cool and refrigerate.

 

To make Hot Pepper Japanese Quince Jelly:

It’s the same as for Jelly, except I add It’s the same process as above, except add a mixture of chopped red bell pepper and seeded hot peppers after the first 10 minutes of boiling, then simmer another 10 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before putting in jars for canning (to help the solid spread better through the jar).

Proportions of hot peppers? it really depends on how hot your peppers are. For 5 cups of juice, I used 5 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup if finely chopped red bell peppers (no seeds) and 1/2 cup of finely chopped red jalapeno peppers (no seeds).

P.S.: Don’t forget to wear gloves if you are sensitive to the capsaicin.

 

2 comments

  1. […] Itty bitty Japanese quince make mighty fine jelly. […]

  2. Sylvie,

    How gorgeous that is! I’ve always wondered about Japanese quince and its fruit, whether the yield would make it worth growing. You’ve got me thinking now about where to squeeze some in. I love your addition of hot peppers, too. Thanks for the inspiration!

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