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Quince Jam’s spicy nuance

Posted by vivnidhi on December 20, 2007

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Quince

The sweetest aroma fills my house as I write this post. “This is Quince”, said the friendly cashier at ZZ’s produce market in Ann Arbor. I usually shop for fruits and vegetables at ZZ’s and he now recognizes me. He was making sure that I knew what I was buying. He said most people get drawn to the sweet smell of quince and are just not prepared for the hidden tart taste. Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is related to apples and pears, looks like a cross between them and has a sweeter smell than both. It is said that this is a very tart fruit and just can’t be eaten raw. As luck would have it, I have bought it twice now and found that my quinces have a woody , very agreeable taste. Less tart than granny smith apples. So, I went ahead and tried to read as much literature was available about this fruit on the internet. Came to know that the sweetness of quince varies from year to year or tree to tree.

Quince is also supposed to be found all over deciduous forests in India but I had never heard of the fruit until I came to the U.S. It has been traditionally used as a medicine and flavoring agent. It is used in colisting diarrhea, dysentery, constipation and diarrhea. It is aromatic, astringent, cooling, febrifuge and also acts as tonic for heart and brain. The gel from the quince seed provides essential vitamins and minerals to nourish the skin. I had never heard of any of this. Quince tree is a valued dwarfing rootstock for pear which produces more fruit-bearing branches and has accelerated fruit maturity when used in this way. Sources of this information are quince seed, Indian-herbs and quince disease report.

I had been thinking of cinnamon subconsciously because of Sunita Bhuyan’s “Think Spice” event as she wants food bloggers to think, think. Cinnamon or Dalchini was a favorite of mine when I was a child. I would eat cinnamon sticks or quills raw cause I loved the sweet taste. My conclusions about its use in my kitchen is that, it is either used to flavor sugar cause it enhances the sweet flavor so well OR in Indian cooking, it is used along with other very strong spices (whole or powdered) to give a sweet tinge to the sharpness of other spices. Then came my regular RealAge food bites email, which said that this natural germ fighter also helps lower blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels — one-quarter teaspoon a day is a healthy goal. Now anything that helps maintain blood sugar levels and and lowers triglycerides is a must in my kitchen.

Somehow, quince and cinnamon paired up well for me. The regular quince jam was flavored with cinnamon and ah! the result was impressive. Cinnamon’s subtle sweetness perfectly complements the quince’s sweet aroma. The following recipe is my adaptation of this Quince Jam recipe. Also, “Marmalade” comes from the Portuguese word marmalada, meaning “quince jam”, most marmalade today is made from citrus fruits, especially oranges.

The Recipe:

  • Quince 2
  • Sugar  1/2 cup
  • Water
  • Cinnamon 1/8 tsp.

Scrub the quinces well as the peel enhances the flavor. Slice the quince in quarters and remove the seeds.  Do not remove the core and add enough water to cover the slices.

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Quince slices ready to be heated

Cover the pan and let it boil on medium heat for about 35 minutes. Remove the cores now and strain and save the leftover water. Puree the boiled slices in a blender. I needed to add all the saved water when pureeing the quince pieces. Two quinces produced exactly 2 cups of puree. I added only 1/2 cup of sugar to the total puree as my quinces were quite sweet. Heat the quince puree and sugar on high heat while stirring constantly. Bring it to a rolling boil and then reduce the heat to medium high. Keep stirring all along. Very long back in India , I had taken a course on Jam and jelly making. Even though I have forgotten most of what I learnt, I know that a plate test is done to test if the jam is done. Pour a tsp. of the jam on a cold plate.If it spreads a little, not leaving water around it, then the jam is done.Put the heat off. Add cinnamon to it and fill it in a sterilized, dry bottle. I did not find any need to add extra pectin as quince has enough natural pectin in it. And, since I made a very small amount,no preservative was used.

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Spicy Quince Jam

Not a great picture, but you get it, right? :). On tasting the jam, my two year old tester immediately responded with “Bahut Achha Hai” (meaning:its very good) and the slice of bread was eaten up after a meal. This is rare!!  So, if you come across this sweet smelling, tart fruit, please don’t shy away, it is delicious. It would be great in a chutney too……..now lets think about that later!

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