Monday, April 5, 2010

Picking for pectin

The quince outside the kitchen window has the most magical flowers looking like enormous single apple blossoms with a blush of pink and a delicate scent. As it grows in the chicken pen and gets the overflow from their water bowl and the garden sink, it thrives. This year we picked 21 kgs, leaving the highest fruit for the parrots, who adore them too.
Preparing quinces for cooking is a tedious job. You need to rub them under running water to remove their fuzz before peeling and coring. Cutting out the core of a quince is rather like trying to saw your bread board in half with a vegetable knife - hard and woody.
After I had made four and a half kilos of quince paste and a quince crumble, I was well over processing quinces. Fortunately, you can pick quinces green and they will ripen off the tree, so I left the rest for a couple of days while I did some research and scrubbed the sticky goo off the kitchen walls.

My trusty Times Life preserving book mentions that you can make pectin out of quinces, as well as apples and as I use pectin often, I was happy to try.

4.5kg quinces or apples
Water to cover

Roughly chop the washed fruit, including the peels, cores and seeds.
Place in a large pot and barely cover with water.
Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer till soft.
Drip contents through a jelly bag, at least overnight.
Return to the clean pan and boil until the quantity has reduced by half.

Test for pectin...exciting

You can test how strong the pectin content is by putting a teaspoon of juice into  bowl and mixing in two tablespoons of methylated spirits.
Swirl together.
If the pectin content is low, small separate lumps will form. Juice high in pectin will form one large mass.
Discard the mixture from the bowl...don’t attempt to eat it.
If the set is not strong, continue to reduce the liquid and test again.
Filter through muslin before bottling.

Pour into sterilised bottle and seal or freeze in ice block trays

To use:
Rule of thumb, according to the book, is 150ml of pectin to 1.25 litres of fruit juice for making jelly. It should be enough for 2kg of soft fruit when making jam.

Quince pectin has the lovely red colour of cooked quince and a distinctive flavour. It is particularly good with berries, pears and apples.

Happy preserving


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