Autumn Labours

When we were based more permanently in Spain, one of the few occasions that Big Man and I  worked together in the kitchen was for the autumn making of Quince Jelly. Practically everyone round our way over there has a couple of Quince trees and come mid October for about six weeks, we were inundated with offers of bags of Quince.

They’re a funny sort of fruit, looking like over sized pears, smelling sweetly perfumed, tasting sour and dreadful if you bite into a raw one, heavenly after cooking gently with plenty of sugar or honey.

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We were walking through Bexhill town centre this morning, where we’re blessed still with small independent traders selling fish, meat, fruit and veg, making curtains, looking after our teeth and eyes and selling us clothes and gifts. Big Man suddenly stopped in his tracks causing a bit of a pile up with me and the two dogs bundling into him, and was sniffing the air like a police tracker dog. “Can you smell that?” he asked excitedly.  Nope…nothing was jumping out at me but I’m recovering from a cold, so hardly surprising.  “Quince, I can smell Quince,  and they must be good if they smell so wonderful”.

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We reversed back up the road a few metres and outside the fruit and veg shop the marvellous sight of a small crate of smooth skinned, golden yellow Quince awaited us. Needless to say,  we snapped them all up (just over 4kgs in total) which the lady in the shop was intrigued by as she didn’t know what they were and was curious to know what we were going to do with them.

We eventually got home lugging our 4kgs of Quince,  a 5kg bag of sugar (we didn’t need that much but it was a bargain) two confused dogs and several library books.

 

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Big Man got straight to work chopping and less than two and half hours later we were done, we’ve got it down to a fine art now. We were sustained during our labours by a very large gin and tonic. He’d bought me back a bottle of Gin Mare  (a new one to us) from duty free, flavoured with olive, thyme, rosemary and basil. Absolutely delicious but very strong!

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Tomorrow we’re going to take a little tub of our Quince jelly, or dulce de membrillo to the lady in the shop so that she can try it with some cheese. Hopefully she’ll enjoy it as much as we do and if you’d like to give it a go, follow this link for the recipe which can be scaled down easily, or you could make this delicious crumble, or this incredible savoury lamb dish.

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I´ve gone right off Medlars….

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

We understand that you have recently made Quince Jelly, something which the readers of Mediaevel Medlar Monthly would be most interested in reading about in more detail.  A reporter will contact you shortly to arrange details of the interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

Reporter: So Ms Andaluza

Chica Andaluza: Oh please, do call me Chica

R: OK, Chica it is.  The Medlar is not a widely known fruit, what do you know about it?

CA: Well, I suggest your readers check out this excellent post by Mad Dog, which gives some fantastic information about this fruit which was traditionally used to make fruit jellies and cheeses.

R:  How did you manage to get hold of your medlars then?

CA: I have a lovely friend, Florence, who let me pick a whopping 8kgs of fruit from her tree for my first journey into medlar jelly making.

R: Tell us a little more about it then

CA: Well, the fruit has to be “bletted” or almost left to rot before it´s edible.  This is the fruit when we picked it.

And this is the fruit about 2 weeks later.

R: Talk me through the process of making the jelly then

CA:  I used about 5kgs of the fruit which was “rotten” enough, and washed it to remove dust and leaves.  It tastes, as a fruit, of something like prunes and plums…a sweet, pleasant, earthy taste.

Then I added just enough water to cover the fruit and cooked it until it was mushy.

R: How did you know how much water to add?

CA: I searched the internet for recipes, which were all a little vague.  In retrospect, I should probably have used more water.

The reporter notes at this point that the subject of the interview is beginning to tremble slightly and mutter under her breath.

R: Once they were “mushy”, what did you do?

CA: The fruit has to be strained through jelly bags to extract the liquid which is then boiled with about two thirds of its weight in sugar until it reaches setting point.

The interviewee is beginning now to behave like Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films – shaking and twitching uncontrollably when the word Medlar (rather than Clouseau) is used.  A glass of wine calms the situation down a little.

R: Is there any special kitchen equipment needed for making this jelly?

CA: I´d recommend a step ladder

R: How so?

CA: Well, you need a large jug to put the jelly strainer over.  I went to get one out of my “despensa” and could not be bothered to get the step ladder, and tried to hook it down with a metal skewer. This resulted in a large wooden tray crashing onto my face and giving me a black eye.

Almost a week later and it still hurts!

R: Oh dear, any other experience you´d like to share with our readers…

CA:  Well, it took me almost 48 hours to strain the juice from the pulp.

R: That must have been a lot of juice

CA: Not really, about half a litre

R: Oh…

CA: And then I had to boil the syrup to hell and back to get it anywhere near setting point, so most of it evaporated

R: Oh…how many jars did you make in the end

CA: Not quite 2. I had envisioned inviting Roger over to take photos of my extensive stock of Amber hued jelly, but I don´t think I´ll bother now.

R: Will you be doing this again then?

At this point the interview was terminated as the interviewee collapsed into a hysterical heap clutching her eye and a large bottle of wine muttering “never again, never again”.

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

Thank you very much for giving so generously of your time recently, particularly in your most delicate state of health.  Whilst we wish you a speedy recovery, we do not feel that the tone of the interview will convey the message of the true beauty, flavour and versatility of the Medlar fruit and will not be publishing your interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

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