A quince lesson; poor hoshigaki

The bad news first. All but two of the 12 hoshigaki I lovingly hung from the curtain rail in my living room have a soft, grey coating of mold. (That’s in addition to the four outside that were torn apart by vampiric squirrels.)

I think it was the rain of the last week that did these guys in — because the fruit have been hanging right next to the cool, humid window, they don’t get the relatively dry warmth of the house.

A goner

When the downpours stop (temporarily stop, that is, this being the Bay Area rainy season) I’m going to try a new batch, jerryrigged over the heating vent in the living room floor.

As for the quince: A new batch of quince jam with some sweet-fleshed, green-skinned, mammoth-sized quince from Monterey Market ($1.98/lb) is a variation on the standard. I reduced the sugar, cooked in two stages and added the juice of a lemon. The lemon brings a nice, rounded tartness to the very honeyish quince, and the two-stage cooking — a variant on Christine Ferber‘s method — ensures the fruit remain neat and tender cubes. The reduced sugar seems to have led to a softer set; I suspect this sweeter-fleshed quince has less pectin, too.

Which makes me wonder. The flesh of these quinces (grammar police: should this be quince, plural?) is a bright, golden lemon even when cooked, and only the syrup gives them the gorgeous scarlet hue I’ve become familiar with from other batches of quince jam and chutneys. Are these a so-called ready-to-eat variety like Aromatnaya or Kauching?

Quince Preserves with Lemon

Wash four large quinces (1.5 kg) and scrape out the remaining flower at each end. Cover with water in a snug-lidded pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer 30 minutes. Let quince sit in water a further 15 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Peel quince carefully with a paring knife, leaving as much flesh intact as possible. Halve and chop into 1/4-inch dice, cutting around and discarding the core.

Meanwhile, boil down the water the quince simmered in. Remove from pan. You should be left with around 6 cups (a little more is OK). Return 6 cups of reserved water to a large preserving pan with 1.75 kg white sugar. Bring to a boil then cook at medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.

Juice a tart (not Meyer) lemon and cut skin into four. Put the seeds and three quarters of lemon peel into a bouquet garni bag and tie loosely to the side of the pan. Add the chopped quince, lemon juice, and a wedge of the chopped lemon peel to the sugar syrup.

Bring to a boil and cook on high heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from pan heat and transfer fruit and syrup to a large ceramic bowl. Cover with a piece of kitchen paper (waxed or parchment) and set aside in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, strain the syrup from the fruit over the preserving pan. (This will take at least 30 minutes.) Cook syrup until it reaches a very soft set (about 10 minutes), add chopped quince, and continue to boil until the mixture squeaks by a wrinkle test. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent the fruit from burning.

Spoon into jars, pour syrup to just below the rims, seal, and can.

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