November has brought another fruit which can not be eaten raw but which signals the preparations for Christmas. It looks like a big pear and when cooked turns a beautiful colour, semi pink or light brown. I am making Quince Jelly. This is one of the 13 traditional desserts in Provence and its origin is probably found in the fact that the fruit was ripe in November and it was cheap to make another simple dessert for the Big Supper of Christmas Eve. It remains a delicacy and the aroma of the cooking quince fills the kitchen with childhood memories. Rather than preserving the fruit by making jam, this is another way of enjoying it. In spite of the sugar needed, it is very healthy as it does not contain any colouring or preservative. In Spain it is served with strong cheeses to create a balance of savours. You need: 1 quince Juice of 1 lemon Preserving sugar A pressure cooker ( if you don’t have one, use a saucepan but it will take much longer to cook the fruit as it has a dense flesh). 1. Rinse and peel the quince. Core and quarter it and put it in a pressure cooker with just enough water to cover it. Quince vary in size and it is difficult to say exactly how much water will be needed. 2. After 5 minutes under pressure, the fruit should be soft enough. Open the pressure cooker and check. If you cook it in a saucepan, it may take up to 40 minutes. 3. Whizz with a liquidizer and measure the mixture in a measuring jug. For 500 ml of mixture add 500g of sugar. The quantity of sugar has to be equal to the quantity of fruit mixture. 4. Put the mixture in the pressure cooker without the lid or in a jam making pan and add the lemon juice. 5. Bring to a fast boil for 6 or 7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. 6. Check that setting point is reached and pour in a large Pyrex dish, making sure that the thickness of the jelly does not exceed 2 cms. Let it cool and leave in the fridge for 2 days. Then, remove it delicately and place it on greaseproof paper to dry in a cool, dark place. The longer you leave it to dry, the firmer the “pâte” will be. Turn the quince fruit jelly every 2 days to allow even drying. 7. Cut it into thick fingers or lozenges and cover with caster sugar. 8. Keep it in a biscuit tin until Christmas Eve or before if you can not resist eating it. Enjoy!
For the first time since they were planted, the small vines have produced some deliciously ripe small bunches of Muscat grapes.
Usually, the weather is too cold at this time of year to allow the poor grapes to ripen but this Autumn the sun’s warmth has worked its magic.
There is not enough, unfortunately, to make wine, so I’m going to make a gelée – or jelly.
You will need:
500g fresh grapes
500g jam sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1 sterilised jam jar ( you can place it in the oven at 100C if the glass withstands it or in the dishwasher on a 60C programme)
1. Rinse the fruit and pluck the grapes from the stems.
2. Place in a big saucepan -or jam pan if you have one – and cover with the water.
3. Simmer gently until the fruit is soft then put it through a sieve.
4. Measure the liquid and pour it back into the saucepan, add the lemon juice and the sugar. It maybe that you have less than 500ml liquid, so you need to adjust the quantity of sugar to be the exact equivalent amount: for example if you have 400ml liquid, you use 400g sugar.
5. Bring to a fast boil for 5 or 7minutes or the time indicated on the sugar packet.
6. Check that it is set by putting a drop of jelly onto a cold saucer.
If it ripples when you run a finger on it, it is set.
7. Fill your jam jar with it and put the lid on. Turn it upside down to create a vacuum. Let it cool and keep it in a cool, dark place.
It could be that it won’t last long!!