Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The jolie-laide of fruit

I have been collecting old jam jars for a while now with the vision in mind of, A) growing enough fruit and, b) being organised enough to try making jam. I have failed on both counts. I have never cooked with quinces before but I decided to dip a toe into the jam arena by making quince paste. It is such a nice addition to a cheese platter and the arrival of a visitor with cheese usually results in a tiresome process of me peering around the fridge for the last previously purchased exorbitantly-priced tiny tub of quince paste, which invariably bears about a shrivelled teaspoon.

How exotic, I thought when spied the quinces at the market, to be able to whip out homemade quince paste for visitors. I even had a recipe that my mother had recently photocopied for me.

So I bought the quinces. I think that they are, to use an apt french term, the jolie-laide of fruit. They are kind of ugly but also quite beautiful. After I had amused myself by making some table-scapes and admiring the colour contrast (the fact that I choose to prioritise playing with quinces over actually working on the house and garden is probably a good reason why major progress fails to be made) I was actually a bit torn about cooking them. But I made myself. I did have to get over the fact that quince paste should actually be called sugar paste with quince flavouring. Then there was a small incident involving lost patience and the breakage of a sieve during the straining process, but all in all, it went quite well.

One of the nicest parts of the process is that the quince mixture starts out yellow but over the course of the hours of stirring slowing turn ruby red. It's quite beautiful.

So, I now have more quince paste in my fridge than I have ever eaten in my life and quite possibly will ever want to eat. I have also been so busy that I haven't transferred it from the pan it set in to seal it properly, so it's quite possibly suffering the effects of oxidisation as I type this, and may well be spoiled before I even get the chance to eat it. But, at least I know that for my future potential jam-making exploits, I can mix fruit and sugar and boil it and get it to set. That bodes well.

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