Quick rec: Sarah Rees Brennan is posting short stories to celebrate significant milestones in sales of her current book. The Arundel Tomb is a moving YA story of friendship, love and being afraid of yourself.
It’s September, and it’s definitely gone all autumnal round here. Autumn means fruit harvest, and fruit harvest means a glut of fruit. And what do you do with so much fruit? Make jam! This month’s Foody Fridays are really encouraging you to just get out there, find some briars or bushes or trees, and help yourself to their free food. Just, you know, make sure it’s actually edible first. No poisoning yourselves!
We’ll start with something most people probably haven’t eaten: Quince Marmalade. Why? Because it was the first.
The word “marmalade” actually comes from the Portuguese for Quince, “marmelo”. It was introduced to the UK in the Tudor period. Very different from modern marmalades, it was more similar to toffee in consistency, a big slab of chewy fruit and sugar. Quince is absolutely packed full of pectin, which is what makes jams and marmalades set, and was popular as a perserved fruit as far back as the Roman period. Quince is pretty bitter on its own, so cooking it with honey not only made it more palatable but meant it would last for ages.
This is not, alas, a Tudor Quince recipe; it’s Mrs Beeton’s.
1 lb quinces
1 lb sugar (you can get preserve sugar, but quince has so much pectin you probably won’t need it)
Preserving Pan (or a very, very large saucepan, but you’ll struggle)
A cold plate
A wooden spoon
A sharp knife
Muslin (Or a very fine sieve)
Put a porcelain plate in the freezer, and your jam jars in the oven on a low heat. It’ll all make sense later, I promise.
Slice the quinces into small cubes and throw into the preserving pan. Cover with water and set to simmer.
When it’s all turned to mush, pass it through your sieve or muslin. This should get all the pips and hairs out. If you want a slightly chunkier marmalade, you’ll have to fish the bits out by hand.
Put the mush back in the pan, along with the sugar. Boil it and stir constantly.
Eventually it’ll start setting. You can check if it’s working a varety of ways (jam thermometers are popular), but my favourite is the cold plate method. Take your cold plate out of the freezer. When it’s good and cold, drop a bit of hot marmalade on it. Poke it with your fingernail; if it wrinkles and doesn’t smooth itself out again, it’s ready. If it slips back into a puddle of gloop, it’s not.
If it’s ready, take your jars out of the oven. They should be nice and hot; this is important, because if they’re cold when the hot jam goes in they’ll break. If you leave your jam to cool, you’ll never get it out of the pan.
Pour into the jam jars, and get that preserve pan under hot soapy water immediately, if you ever want to get it clean again!
One of my favourite variations on this one is to use a mix of lemon and apple juice (2 tbls lemon, 3 tbls apple) rather than water. Gives a bit more variety to the flavour!