Along the Grapevine


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Japanese Quince Jelly and Chutney

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chaenomeles Wikipedia

I am well accustomed to cooking with quinces, but when we moved here it was difficult to find a source. So I decided to try some Japanese quinces (chaenomeles) from those ornamental shrubs which are quite common in local gardens. Although I don’t have any of my own, most people are only too ¬†happy if you volunteer to remove them in October when they start littering the ground around them. So, thanks Connie for my supply this year.

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They are smaller than the tree variety (true quince or Cydonia oblonga), and have a large centre full of seeds resembling apple seeds. The taste is very lemony – more so than lemons. Wherever you store them will soon become permeated with the most heavenly scent, and they can be stored in a cool place for several weeks. They can be used pretty much in any regular quince recipe. For centuries they have been used in Asia for medicinal purposes, and recent studies confirm this. For more about the nutritional and medicinal value, check out this site.

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With my small stash I made a jelly and a chutney. There seems to be some doubt as to the value of the fruit as a jelly, but I suspect people who claim that have never actually tried it. I find the flavour delicious on its own, but if you want to experiment, a little orange or chilli or whatever you might add to apple would work well. Also, even though they are rock hard, preparing them was not a big chore.

Japanese Quince Jelly

Japanese quinces, quartered (no need to peel, discard seeds or membrane)

water

sugar

Place the cut quinces in a pan and barely cover with water.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about two hours. Mash lightly with a fork.

Strain the compote through a cheesecloth lined sieve and let sit overnight, or at least a few hours.

Pour the liquid into a pan and add the same volume of sugar.

Cook slowly (about 1 1/2 hours) until it is ready.

Skim off the frothy bits as it heats, and keep a close watch.

I usually overcook jelly, so I tested a small amount of liquid on a plate straight from the freezer. When it stays in one place you know it is ready.

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I am more a chutney than a jelly fan, so I used the remaining pound of quinces to make some. I never follow recipes for chutney. To me, chutney is a way to use up excess fruit, just mixed with vinegar, sugar and spices. It is pretty hard to go wrong. And you have one of the most useful staples in your fridge to show for it – as a condiment, in a cheese or grilled vegetable sandwich, mixed with yoghurt or mayonnaise for a dip, or just with crackers and cheese.

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Japanese Quince Chutney

1 lb quince, seeded and chopped.

3/4 lb onions, finely chopped

1/2 lb brown sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

some raisins (optional)

chilli peppers, or chilli flakes to taste.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until thick (about 2 hours on a low heat).

I used two whole cayenne peppers, with seeds, chopped very finely. But the variety and amount are your call.


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Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is not a wild plant, but once you have it, you have it forever. Mine was a good healthy plant when I moved to my current property almost three years ago, and it just keeps getting bigger and better. This may be the first year I can’t keep up with it – I use it for desserts, chutney and soups, and I freeze a good deal of it for the winter just by chopping it and storing it in the freezer in plastic bags. And if you like mixing your rhubarb with strawberries for pies, you might want to try other sweet fruits, such as apricots, blueberries, seedless grapes or dates.

This is a basic stewed recipe which, with minor alterations, can also be jam or filling. I used fresh ginger for flavouring, but vanilla, orange blossom or rosewater are also really good.

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Rhubarb Filling

This can be used for filling tarts, thumbprint cookies etc.

4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl and let sit overnight or several hours, until the sugar has become all liquid. At this point, add the cornstarch. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes, until the rhubarb is just tender, but not mushy, and the liquid has become translucent. Once cooled, fill baked tart shells, cookies etc.

Stewed Rhubarb

Do as above, omittting the cornstarch.

Rhubarb Jam

Same as for the stewed rhubarb, but continue to cook until it is a thick consistency.