Today I’m making something I’m a little more familiar with cooking: marmalade! I found a website where you can order quinces, although because shipping of perishable goods is pretty hefty, I want to make sure I use them in a recipe with a high chance of success (thus increasing the likelihood that I will get to try my quinces in a finished dish!) Quince was one of the most popular fruits in Markham’s day–it appearsed probably more often than any other fruit in The English Housewife, and that holds true for the other books I’ve looked at as well. Its history goes back to ancient times, and although they aren’t especially common now in the U.S., they are a popular addition to recipes in several global cuisines. The fruit is useful in these sorts of preparations because of its high pectin content, which allows the marmalade to thicken considerably. Markham’s recipe (pg 112 of Michael Best’s book) goes as follows:
Marmalade of Quinces Red
To make red marmalade of quinces; take a pound of quinces and cut them in halves, and take out the cores and pare them; then take a pound of sugar and a quart of fair water and put them all into a pan, and let them boil with a soft fire, and sometimes turn them and keep them covered with a pewter dish, so that the steam or air may come a little out; the longer they are in boiling the better colour they will have; and when they be soft take a knife and cut them cross upon the top, it will make the syrup go through that they may be all of a like colour; then set a little of your syrup to cool, and when it beginneth to be thick then break your quinces with a slice or a spoon, so small as you can in the pan, and then strew a little fine sugar in your box’s bottom, and so put it up.
He also has a recipe just below it for “Marmalade white:”
To make white marmalade you must in all points use your quinces as is beforesaid; only you must take but a pint of water to a pound of quinces, and a pound of sugar, and boil them as fast as you can, and cover them not at all.
The quinces I received are huge (about a pound each), so I used one for each type of marmalade.
As per Markham’s instructions, I peeled the quince, halved it, and cored it. The peels are thin, so you can use a vegetable peeler unless you prefer working with a knife. Markham urges readers to let the quince boil for as long as possible to develop the color, so I planned on simmering them for about 2 hours. This marmalade is very easy to make, and like the strawberry conserve I made a while back, it’s something you can have on the stove without attending to it constantly. Here is the recipe for those who wish to try it:
Red Quince Marmalade
1 lb quince(s)
2 1/4 c sugar
4 c water
- Peel the quince using a knife or vegetable peeler, cut it in half and remove the core.
- Place in a medium saucepan with the water and sugar.
- Simmer over a low heat, loosely covered, for about 2 hours. Turn fruit occasionally during cooking.
- After the first half an hour, take a knife and made two perpendicular cuts on the outside of each half.
- Once most of the water has evaporated and the fruit is in a thick syrup, use a spoon or potato masher to break the quince apart into evenly distributed bits.
- Allow to cool.
The only difference between this and the preparation method above is that it is cooked quickly to prevent the red color from developing. The raw quince fruit has a light, cream-colored flesh, and so in this instance we are trying to preserve that color rather than allow the reactions to occur that turn cooked quince red (see a blog post with a brief explanation of that process here). The water is reduced by half so that it evaporates more quickly.
White Quince Marmalade
1 lb. quince
2 cups water
2 1/4 cups sugar
- Peel, halve, and core the quince.
- Combine the halved fruit in a pot with the water and sugar.
- Boil rapidly until a thick syrup develops (about 30 minutes), then break down the fruit with a spoon or potato masher to desired smoothness.