Quince is probably my most favourite fruit, and considering how delicious it is , it is surprisingly unknown in the UK. I planted a quince tree (Cydonia Oblonga 'Vranja') in my garden 10 years ago. It matured quickly into a beautifully gnarly tree that produces a heavy crop of beautiful golden fruit every year without fail. These are late maturing - not at their best until the beginning of November, but it is well worth the wait! The hard, aromatic fruit has to be cooked, with lots of sugar as it is very sharp, but then it has an amazing flavour, slightly reminiscent of eastern spices, and the jam, which turns pinkish orange has a taste somewhere between mango and apricot - divine! It is entirely frost hardy, fast growing and very ornamental to look at - I can't understand why it is not more popular. So, to anyone who has some room, I highly recommend planting one.
The fruits don't store well once picked so it is best to use them within a few days. I puree some down and freeze it, but the most delicious thing to do is make Quince marmalade.
* VERY CAREFULLY peel and core the fruit. ( most books suggest you pass the cooked fruit through a sieve half way through the marmalade process, but I find this really laborious, and fairly wasteful - time is better spent in making sure all the peel and core is removed at this stage, so you can puree the mixture and not discard any later on)
* Put in a large pan and BARELY cover fruit with water.
* Cook on a low heat until quince begins to soften. If at this stage you feel there is excess water in the pan, strain some off now, as it greatly reduces the 'jamming' time. Quince is funny stuff, it doesn't mix well with water, so it is quite easy to separate off the water at this early stage.
* When the quince is entirely softened, puree with a hand held blender, or mash well. The mixture should be fairly thick at this stage. If it seems too runny, you need to cook for longer and reduce more.
*Once the mixture has reached a 'porridgy' consistency turn off the heat and measure the mixture. For every pint of quince puree you should add 3/4 of sugar. Mix well and heat on a low heat to melt the sugar.
* From this point on you need to stir continuously, as the marmalade burns easily on the bottom of the pan. It doesn't come up to a rolling boil like jam, but instead needs to simmer slowly. It takes about half an hour from this point, and again doesn't reach setting point quite like jam does. Instead it starts to form a thick gloopy skin on the wooden spoon or around the edges of the pan when it is ready. At this point pour into clean sterilised glass jars.
* Put away and enjoy! I keep opened jars in the fridge, and we use this marmalade in a really yummy version of bread and butter pudding. ( see below )
This is a recipe that I have adapted over time from an old English favourite, bread and butter pudding. I use quince marmalade because I make it myself, and it’s sharp smoky taste is divine, and perfectly cuts through the sweet richness of the pudding. If you cant use that, then other marmalade would work well too, though I would recommend one without peel chunks.
This is a huge pudding that I make when we have all the family round, but you could halve the ingredients and make a smaller one!
Serves 10 –14 depending on how large their appetites!
1 Pandoro cake (Italian sponge cake made in a tall ‘star’ shape, so when sliced across horizontally you get star slices)
½ Jar quince marmalade
2 tablespoons caster sugar
3 egg yolks
400 ml double cream
350 ml milk
sprinkling Demerara sugar
Turn oven on to 170 degrees c
Butter your largest ovenproof dish!
Slice the whole cake horizontally into slices about ½ inch thick.
Make these slices into sandwiches with the marmalade, and cut in half, reserving 2 best star shapes for the top of the pudding.
Fill the dish with the sandwiches, arranging and stacking them so they all fit in. It depends on the size and shape of your dish, but I find that putting them upright, hedgehog fashion, works best.
Spread marmalade on one side of each of the reserved slices, and place them on top, marmalade side down.
Whisk together the milk, cream, all eggs, and caster sugar, and carefully pour over the pudding, making sure all is covered, and leave to soak in for ten minutes.
Sprinkle with Demerara sugar and bake for about 45 minutes.
And so that is it for a week. I am off away to Cornwall today for a much needed holiday with my extended family ( where we always bake starry pudding!). See you when I get back !