Last week I mentioned our Vashon Farmers Market adventure. While there, the a display of quince caught our eye. They are so charming and rustic! Quince are in the rose family (as are apples and pears.) And boy, oh boy, is this a classic rose family fruit. It looks like a cross between an apple and a pear, and tastes like a starchy lemon-apple-pear.
I knew I wanted to make jelly. I hear you can use quince in sweet or savory dishes, because it has a tart mellow flavor. Uncooked, it has the texture of a raw squash, so eating it raw isn’t really a thing. But you know me and fruit, and jelly was always the plan. Quince are really high in pectin, so you get a solid set without adding pectin, and without a ton of extra cooking.
I have only used star anise once before, so it’s not a spice I’m terribly familiar with. But it’s so beautiful! And I have a recipe for Quince Star Anise Jelly in the book Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, a cookbook I’ve had lots of luck with. It’s weird though, I halved her recipe, but came out with twice as much jelly as she said I would. That error must have slipped past the editor.
And as usual, I didn’t read the entire recipe before starting. Reading ahead would have been important in this case, because it’s a 3-day recipe. But in fairness to my poor planning skills, who could guess that? Luckily, I’m unemployed and had the time to devote to jelly.
It’s all a trick, of course. It doesn’t take any 3 full days. It takes at most 2 hours on each of 3 days. And you can fudge this for sure. Like, for instance, where she suggests you strain “overnight,” I had everything done straining in a couple hours. (But then again, I tend to cut corners where possible. Maybe if I had strained it correctly overnight I’d have another jar of jam. Who knows?)
Recipe (this is the halved version of the one from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry.)
Yield: varies. For me it was 2.25 pints, but it depends on the amount of liquid you end up with.
2 lbs quince, coarsely chopped (remove “butt” end but no need to peel or seed)
1 cooking apple, chopped as above (I used Macintosh, they mash well)
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
5 cups water (day 1)
2 cups water (day 2)
~4 cups sugar (amount depends on amount of juice) (day 3)
2 star anise (day 3) plus extra for garnish (optional)
Day 1: Prep and strain
Put quince, apple, lemon zest and lemon juice, and 5 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, covered.
Strain the liquid through a jelly strainer into a large bowl. I don’t have the cheese-cloth funnel thing, so here’s what I do. I have a small holed sieve (like for sifting flour) that I put over the bowl. Over that, I put my standard colander. I gently put the fruit and liquid into the colander, and mix occasionally. If the sieve gets clogged, I bring out the solids in there and put them into the colander. It’s not perfect but it gets a pretty clear juice.
Let this strain overnight. Or, if you’re like me, a couple hours. Store the liquids and the solids separately (in the fridge if you need to wait until the next day for step 2), you’ll need them both for the next step.
Day 2: Mash and re-strain
Add the leftover fruit to the large pot again. Add 2 cups of water. Mash the fruit so that you can be sure you’re getting all the good stuff out – flavor, juices, what-have-you. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for a half hour.
Strain the juice out again as you did yesterday. After straining, add this juice to the juice you have stored in the fridge. I used a pitcher. Now you can compost the solids.
Day 3: Jelly day!
Measure the juice. For every 2 ½ cups of juice, add 2 ¼ cups of sugar to a large pot. I had 4 ½ cups of juice so added about 4 cups of sugar. 1:1 would be fine, if you don’t like math.
Put two star anise in cheese cloth. Whack with a rolling pin, to crush a little, but not turn to dust. Place the cheesecloth bundle in the pot, too. Don’t use more star anise than the recipe calls for, even though it’s tempting, because it can taste medicinal.
Heat on medium, to dissolve the sugar, stirring often. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Boil like this, stirring constantly for 10 minutes.
Note – I used the candy thermometer she suggested, and it worked really well. If you have a candy thermometer, heat liquid to 220 F (this took me about 12 minutes). If no candy thermometer, after 10 minutes of boiling do the “wrinkle test.” That’s where you have a plate in the freezer (plan ahead!) and set the hot liquid on it. Place this back in the freezer and wait 2 minutes. If the jam wrinkles when you push on it with a finger, it will set. If it just gushes, it’s not done yet.
Once the jelly is set the way you want, remove from heat. Skim off the foam. Now ladle into hot jars, put on lids and rings (all hot) and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
Optional: you can add one star anise to each jar. I put them right on the top of the jelly, but then when the lids are on you totally can’t see them. I think it’d look cool to have sitting vertical in the center of the jam, like a bug in amber. Plus, you’d never forget what was inside!
The results: Delicious! I think it’s the best with goat cheese. The star anise flavor is really strong, but not overpowering. I’d be curious how this recipe would differ with apples, since the quince flavor seems very subtle. But it was a hit with the girls last night, and D really likes it. So, we have a winner!