Last week I found a quince on the sidewalk next to my house. I picked it up and kept walking. As I walked back again toward home, I found another one. And yes, I pocketed that one too.
My house and my neighbor’s house were once owned by the same man, an avid grafter who filled both yards (and several other neighbors’) with fruit trees. The apple tree espaliered to my garage is at least 50 years old and our pear tree is grafted with three varieties: Bartletts and two others I haven’t been able to identify.
My neighbor and I have three quince trees between us. They’re leggy and overgrown, possibly Smyrnas. Twin trees in the backyard face each other across the fence, while a third tree is tucked in a heavily planted section of her front yard. She’s been nice enough to offer me whatever quince comes off her trees — the sidewalk bounty must have rolled down the yard onto the sidewalk.
Two small quinces and a larger once from the backyard gave two pounds of jam. The fruit was a little mealy, so I’m glad I cut it into small cubes rather than larger chunks.
The recipe is my standby, but with a twist: I reduced the water the quinces had boiled in so the flavor was more concentrated and — hopefully — any pectin that had accumulated wasn’t wasted, as it would be if I’d poured excess water down the sink. (If the quinces are not snug in the pot when covered with water, there will be too much water remaining after softening the fruit — and it will be difficult for the jam to set.)
Basic Quince Jam
Wash quinces, rubbing off the fuzzy coating from the skin. Cover with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer around 45 minutes, until quinces are soft and water is a pale peach color.
Meanwhile, simmer quince water until it has reduced by around half.
Remove quinces and cool slightly. Remove the delicate and papery outer later of skin, being careful not to take off the additional millimeter or two of flesh that may peel back from the cracked, cooked fruit. Discard papery skin. (I’ll post photos of this process soon.)
Chop quince into cubes, being careful to remove the hard core and seeds. Return the chopped fruit to the water and weigh the flesh + water. Add an equal weight of sugar.
Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Keep at an aggressive simmer until jam passes the freezer wrinkle test and has the consistency of warm honey when you scoop up a spoonful and let it drip into the pot.
Turn off the heat, jar and can.*
* Bad me! I didn’t can this batch. The two-part lids had popped tight within a couple of hours and I figured we would eat this batch swiftly anyway.